David de Gea confident Marcel Sabitzer can cover for suspended Casemiro

<span>Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA</span>
Photograph: Martin Rickett/PA

David de Gea says Casemiro’s three-game suspension will be tough for Manchester United but he is confident Marcel Sabitzer can be an ideal replacement.

Casemiro was sent off in Saturday’s 2-1 win over Crystal Palace at Old Trafford for wrapping his hands around Will Hughes’ neck so will be unavailable for the home and away Premier League matches versus Leeds in the next eight days, plus Leicester’s visit on 19 February.

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Erik ten Hag has previously noted losing the Brazilian would be a particular blow, especially as Christian Eriksen is out until early May and Scott McTominay is unavailable for up to two more weeks. Yet De Gea pointed to Sabitzer, who joined on loan from Bayern Munich on transfer deadline day, and impressed as a late replacement against Palace.

De Gea said: “It’s going to be tough, for sure. We already lost Christian, now Casemiro: big players for us. But we have a bigger squad, players are ready to play, everyone is really focused. Sabitzer showed already – he played 15 to 20 minutes and he did really well, made some good tackles, he is good with the ball. And, everyone is ready to play.”

Sabitzer, who is 28 and previously played for RB Salzburg and Leipzig, has considerable Champions League experience and 68 Austria caps. De Gea said: “He’s an experienced guy – he played a lot of games in the Bundesliga, is a nice guy – it’s good for the dressing room. It’s not easy to come in a game when we’re one man less, he showed good spirit, he’s going to help the team a lot.”

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Arsenal’s loss at Everton means United are eight points behind in third, though the leaders have played a game fewer, but De Gea has not yet written off a title challenge from United.

“Let’s see what happens in the future. Everton were bottom, no, and they beat the top of the league?” he said. “That shows how difficult every game is in the Premier League, you have to be very focused every game because it’s very tough. I always say game by game, prepare for the next game, that’s the most important thing.”