David De Gea says it will be “tough” to cope without Casemiro and took inspiration from former boss Jose Mourinho to avoid giving his thoughts on the Manchester United midfielder’s red card.
Bruno Fernandes’ penalty and a Marcus Rashford strike put Manchester United on course for a 13th successive home win in all competitions when Crystal Palace came to town on Saturday.
But Casemiro’s sending off after a VAR review for putting his hands around Will Hughes’ throat during a clash between both sets of players sparked a frantic final 20 minutes.
Jeffrey Schlupp pulled one back but United held on for a 2-1 victory that underlined the chasm in quality and character between this group and the one that floundered last season.
“It’s a great run,” long-serving goalkeeper De Gea said. “I think we improve a lot from last season.
“Of course it means a lot because the game was under control, then in one action we lost one big player and it was tough until the end.
“They scored one goal and had a couple of good chances at the end.
“But we fight and it feels great to have won the game like we did.”
De Gea called it a “massive, massive three points” for a team that will now have to do without star midfielder Casemiro for the next three matches.
The 30-year-old’s red card led boss Erik ten Hag to bemoan the inconsistency of VAR decision-making and the goalkeeper to tweet a GIF of former United boss Mourinho saying “if I speak I am in big trouble”.
Asked about the decision to send off Casemiro shortly after that post, De Gea referred to it and said with a smile: “I am like in the tweet – I prefer not to talk because if I talk I’m in trouble. I don’t want to say anything on that.”
Casemiro will be suspended for the doubleheader against rivals Leeds and the home clash with Leicester as a result of the punishment, putting the onus on others to step up.
“It’s going to be tough for sure,” he said. “We lost already Christian (Eriksen to injury), now Case, so big players for us.
“But we have a bigger squad. Players are ready to play, everyone is really focused.
“(Marcel Sabitzer) shows already, he play 15 to 20 minutes, he did really well, made some good tackles, good with the ball, so everyone is ready to play.”
Sabitzer joined on loan from Bayern Munich just before Tuesday’s transfer deadline and could make his first start against Leeds on Wednesday given United’s midfield absentees.
“He looks like an experienced guy,” De Gea said. “He played a lot of games in the Bundesliga, he’s a nice guy, a really nice lad, it’s good for the dressing room.
“I think he showed already in 15 minutes. It’s not easy to come in a game when we’re one man less, he showed good spirit. I think he’s going to help the team a lot.”
Sabitzer will quickly ingratiate himself to the Old Trafford faithful if he plays a key role in a Wednesday win against Leeds, who United then travel to for the reverse fixture on Sunday.
“It’s a massive game,” De Gea said. “We have to recover well now because we did an extra effort today at the end.
“Again, game on Wednesday, game on Sunday, so it’s not easy. We have to be very focused.
“It’s a special game, always against Leeds. Let’s see. We have some days to prepare the game properly, recovery, and go again.”
De Gea was coy about United’s Premier League title hopes but more forthcoming about his contract, which expires in the summer after the club decided not to take up their option.
The Spain international said a month ago that he was sure negotiations would end in a “good way” – a stance he repeated after the Palace victory.
“We’re still talking,” De Gea added. “Like I said last time, I’m just focused on the games, that’s the most important thing.
“But, like I said last time, for sure it’s going to end in a good way.”
While Ten Hag’s side look for another win against Leeds, Crystal Palace boss Patrick Vieira returned to the capital knowing his side need to learn to be more clinical.
“We are not winning games and we don’t score enough goals,” he said.
“We need to score goals to allow us to win games. This is something we have to improve.”