United were beaten by Villarreal in a tense penalty shootout, with De Gea missing the crucial spot kick.
The Spaniard was consoled by Sir Alex Ferguson during Villareal’s celebrations as he made his way back towards United’s dressing room.
De Gea was signed by Ferguson at the age of 20 in 2011 and the former United boss stuck by the goalkeeper during his tricky early period at Old Trafford.
And in his first message after the defeat, De Gea paid tribute to Ferguson and others who have supported him following his penalty miss.
‘To fall and rise. Learn from the experience, fight again and win. Manchester United, thanks for your support,’ De Gea wrote on Instagram and accompanied the message with a picture of himself being hugged by Ferguson on Wednesday night.
Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, meanwhile, admitted after the game that he had considered substituting De Gea for Dean Henderson ahead of the shootout due to the Spaniard’s poor record with saving penalties.
De Gea has not saved a penalty since April 2016 and has failed to keep out the last 40 spot kicks he’s faced in all competitions.
‘You go through every scenario, of course, and it [De Gea’s penalty record] had crossed my mind in the build-up to the game but we were confident in David and prepared,’ said Solskjaer.
‘Anything can happen in a penalty shootout. I stuck with the keeper who played all of the game.
‘I’ve got to say the penalty shootout was high quality, but we didn’t do enough in the 120 minutes to score more goals and that’s the disappointing bit.
‘We had pressure, we had moments where we felt if we can just kick on a little bit now we can get a goal. But we just couldn’t.’
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