The 25-year-old underwent a medical in Lyon today and will be officially unveiled at a press conference this week.
It brings to a close an eight-year association with United after Rafael joined the club alongside twin brother Fabio. He made his first-team debut against Newcastle in August 2008 and went on to make 170 appearances for the Reds, scoring five goals.
Rafael was a popular figure with fans at Old Trafford and he tweeted: “I want to thank Manchester United fans for all the love during those eight years.”
In a heartfelt farewell, he continued: “Since I signed with the club I [have] lived incredible moments… eight years wearing the shirt of one of the biggest clubs of the world. Thank you @ManUtd. I also want to thank all employees who always treated me with great affection and gave me greater attention.
“Thank you United Kingdom, I learned a lot in this country, as a player, and no doubt as a human being, lessons that I will keep for the rest of my life. Thank you Sir Alex Ferguson for always believing in my work and for all the doors that you opened up to me. Now it’s a new path, a new challenge, God bless me!”
His former colleagues also took to Twitter to pay tribute to their departing teammate. David De Gea posted a picture of himself with Rafael during United’s 20th title celebrations in 2013: “You are one of the best guys that I know. I am sure that you will succeed in your new adventure, you’re top.”
Captain Wayne Rooney tweeted: “Good luck Rafa, we will all miss you.” Ashley Young replied to Rafa’s earlier tweet, saying: “All the best Rafa aka Rafinho, wish you all the best at Lyon.” And Phil Jones added: “Good luck Rafael in the start of your new adventure! Top player and top professional!”
Michael Carrick chipped in by tweeting: “8 years? Took me 4 to tell the difference between you and Fab. Good luck Raf, will miss you mate. It’s been a pleasure.”
Everyone at the club would like to wish Rafael well in the future.