Raphael Varane says Manchester United need to find a way to balance the team with key midfielder Casemiro suspended for four games domestically.
Just five weeks after his controversial dismissal against Crystal Palace, the 31-year-old looked dejected after being shown his second red card in just three Premier League games.
Originally booked for a tackle that saw his boot land on the shin of Southampton midfielder Carlos Alcaraz, he was upgraded to red after the VAR recommended Anthony Taylor review the decision.
Erik ten Hag fumed at his inconsistent play after a hard-fought 0-0 draw as Casemiro is now ruled out for Sunday’s FA Cup quarter-final against Fulham and United’s next three league games.
“He’s a very important player for us,” said United defender Varane, who knows the Brazil international better than anyone after their spell at Real Madrid.
“He brings balance to the team and to the squad but we have a great squad and we have to find a different balance without him.
“But we have good players in all positions and are ready for the next games.
“I think he was very disappointed because nobody wants to leave the pitch before the end but like I said it’s part of football. It was obviously very disappointing, but we can focus on the next few games and that’s it.”
Asked for his opinion on Casemiro’s dismissal, the former French defender said: “I think about the referee’s decisions, I keep my opinion to myself.
“We can’t be happy with his decision, but that’s part of football.”
United said on Monday they would not appeal Casemiro’s red card, saying: “The club has decided that there is not much chance of the appeal ban being overturned”.
Varane’s frustration with the circumstances and Sunday’s result was palpable, as was his pride in the way the group has fought together just a week after the 7-0 defeat at Liverpool.
“I find it frustrating,” he said of the result. “Satisfied with the mentality, the fighting spirit.
“The team fought as a group and that is the positive point for today.
“We knew we had to run a little bit more to be a little bit more defensive, but we reacted as a team, as a group and with a good mentality.
“We fight for each other. The crowd as well. We feel the support. I think we can be proud of the fighting spirit, obviously disappointed with the result but great teamwork today.”
Sunday’s game was the Red Devils’ final Premier League action of the month as attention turns to the cup competitions ahead of the international break.
United meet Real Betis on Thursday with a 4-1 advantage from the first leg of the Europa League round of 16 before Fulham arrive at Old Trafford in the FA Cup quarter-finals on Sunday.
“I think if you take the game against Liverpool, we were in a good moment and we got good results, so we have to keep the confidence,” Varane said.
“Of course we want a good result to keep the rhythm. I think the winning mentality is here in this group. We want to win every game, so we have to fight and be ready for Thursday.”
Ten Hag will certainly be tempted to rotate in Spain given his three-goal lead, although it’s unclear if Alejandro Garnacho will be available.
The 18-year-old left Old Trafford on crutches with his right foot in a protective boot after a challenge from Kyle Walker-Peters, although his manager downplayed concerns about the exciting Argentine.
“I think they have great talent, you saw that today,” Varane said of Garnacho and his young colleague Facundo Pellistri.
“They can bring speed to the pitch, they can create opportunities, they can create danger.
“We need these kinds of players to make the difference and change games.”
As for relegation-threatened Southampton, Ruben Selles’ side need to build on Sunday’s point in this week’s crucial Premier League double-header at home to Brentford and Tottenham.
Saints centre-back Jan Bednarek said: “We have great faith in our coach. We have a lot of trust at the moment, if we do what our manager says, we can win games, keep clean sheets and bring joy to our fans.
“Let’s take a point, let’s take a goal and build on that.
“We have another game on Wednesday and we need to recover and build up from that goal. The only thing we have to sort out is to be a little more sober in the opponent’s penalty area.”