English Premiership

United off to a winning start

2011-08-14 19:09
Ashley Young (AP)

London - David De Gea was spared the ignominy of ruining the start of Manchester United's title defence as the champions snatched a late 2-1 victory against West Bromwich Albion on Sunday.

Sir Alex Ferguson's side were cruising after Wayne Rooney's opener but debutant goalkeeper De Gea - an £18.3 million summer signing from Atletico Madrid - gifted Albion an equaliser at the Hawthorns when he let Shane Long's weak shot trickle through his arms.

The 20-year-old Spaniard was criticised after his errors in last weekend's Community Shield win over Manchester City, and those question marks will loom larger for De Gea after what was an awful mistake.

However, Ashley Young - another United debutant - spared De Gea's blushes in the 81st minute when he cut in from the left and whipped over a cross that Steven Reid deflected into his own net.

While title rivals Chelsea, Arsenal and Liverpool were all held to draws on the opening weekend, United once again demonstrated their winning mentality to grind out a victory in the nick of time.

However, there were injury concerns for Ferguson that slightly detracted from the result.

Young Brazilian defender Rafael da Silva was already ruled out before the game for ten weeks with a dislocated shoulder.

He will be joined on the casualty list as Nemanja Vidic limped off with what appeared to be a calf injury in the first half, while Rio Ferdinand was forced off 15 minutes from time.

When Rooney made the most of Young's pass to shoot between Gabriel Tamas' legs and beyond Ben Foster for the opener, it was the culmination of 13 minutes of relentless United pressure.

United's travelling fans were ecstatic and they took great delight in waving a banner proclaiming: 'Who needs Wesley. We've got Cleverley' to mark Tom Cleverley's full debut and make their thoughts clear on Ferguson's interest in Inter Milan's Wesley Sneijder.

The sense of satisfaction would have been much deeper had Nani not carelessly lifted two opportunities over the crossbar from eight yards.

United's wonderful approach work deserved far better from the Portuguese winger and those let-offs ensured Albion maintained an interest in a contest which could have been over inside the opening half-hour.

De Gea's high-profile error came in the 37th minute of a game the champions should already have put to bed.

Seconds earlier the Spanish international had punched away Paul Scharner's powerful shot but a lapse in concentration saw him gift Albion an equaliser they did not merit.

Chris Smalling allowed Long inside him in the area and while the Albion debutant's shot was accurate, it clearly lacked sufficient power.

Yet De Gea dived over the effort, allowing the ball to find the far corner of the net.

From that point on De Gea looked a nervous wreck under any high ball, but he was spared total embarrassment nine minutes from time when United had a slice of luck of their own.

Young prodded a cross into the six-yard box and Reid provided the crucial deflection to take the ball beyond Foster and into the net.

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