David de Gea believes Manchester United have developed a “winning mentality” that can see them challenge for the Premier League title.
United have not challenged for the title since Sir Alex Ferguson brought the curtain down on his glittering reign with the club’s record 20th championship triumph in 2013.
But United’s last-gasp 1-0 win over Wolves on Tuesday, courtesy of Marcus Rashford’s 93rd-minute strike, moved them up to second in the table, just two points behind champions and league leaders Liverpool.
The two arch rivals meet at Anfield on January 17 in what will be the first top-of-the-table clash between them since the 2008-09 season, when both were vying for the title, United coming out on top by four points.
Since then, the two sided have not challenged each other for the title, but United’s re-emergence as genuine contenders under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer this season has given the biggest fixture in England an extra edge.
Although Solskjaer and Rashford played down United’s title credentials in the immediate aftermath of the Wolves win, goalkeeper De Gea said: “I think we have now a winning mentality and this is very important for the team.
“All of us we want to win, we keep trying until the end. The manager wants us to try until the end. It was great to see the team trying to score until the last minute and then we scored so it’s perfect for us.
“You have to believe, keep believing all the time. But, at the same time, we have to be calm because this is a long way to finish, many games to come.
“At the moment we feel very strong, very confident so now we have to start 2021 like we finished this year – with confidence, strong, with a winning mentality and like we play a final every game, so let’s go for it.”
Although Rashford was United’s match-winner with the dramatic late goal, De Gea made a succession of key saves prior to that, to keep United in the game.
In a season when his No.1 status has been questioned and challenged with the return to United of England keeper Dean Henderson, De Gea has provided a reminder of his enduring class, after last season’s erratic form.
“I feel very confident to be honest, I feel well,” said Dea Gea.
“I’m happy every time I can help the team and make some big saves to keep the clean sheets.
“The whole team I think we played a good game so, yeah, I’m really happy.”
United host Aston Villa on Friday, their first fixture of 2021, with De Gea urging his team-mates to maintain the momentum they have generated after a poor start.
Solskjaer’s side are the Premier League’s form side, unbeaten in nine games, having taken 23 points from a possible 27.
“We need to keep the level that we’re showing in the last games,” said De Gea.
“We’re playing to win every game now so it’s beautiful to see the team trying to create chances, to score goals.”