WEST BROM 1, MAN UNITED 2
It looks as though a successful defence of Manchester United’s Barclays Premier League title will be built on solid foundations.
The Reds’ back line was certainly stretched in their opening fixture of the 2011/12 campaign at West Bromwich Albion.
Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic limped out of the game to join Rafael da Silva and Patrice Evra on the sidelines.
The loss of four key defenders would severely impact on even the biggest clubs and in previous seasons United would have been stretched.
United were fortunate to be able to call upon new-boy Phil Jones and Jonny Evans as top-quality replacements for Ferdinand and Vidic at The Hawthorns.
And with central defender Chris Smalling looking every inch a right back since his temporary switch and Fabio da Silva as left back, United are better equipped than they probably have ever been to cope with the loss of key personnel.
The only concern remains the form of new Reds’ keeper David De Gea who was at fault for the debut goal from Baggies striker Shane Long.
After his mishaps in the FA Community Shield, the Spaniard was under increased scrutiny at The Hawthorns where Sir Alex Ferguson thought he was unfairly targeted, though he conceded he was at fault for the goal.
He said: “David should have done better. I think it was a lack of concentration and it was slack.
“You saw the abuse he got in the second half and I couldn’t believe he never got a free kick. The aerial assault on him was ridiculous.
“”In the second half he was targeted a bit. It was not necessarily physically but there were a lot of challenge which ought to have been free kicks.”
Ferguson also remembered how legend Peter Schmeichel also had a shaky start to his career at Old Trafford.
He continued: “Teams gave him a torrid time, but he went on to become the best keeper of all time.
“David is young. He will learn and he will come through it. All you can do is pat him on the head and say welcome to English football.”
As Ferguson did at Wembley the previous week, he again went with young guns Tom Cleverley and Danny Welbeck who were preferred to more experienced personnel who were held as back up on the bench.
The new season began as the previous one ended with United again clearly the team to beat as they made a winning start.
It was far from unlucky as Wayne Rooney put United ahead in the 13th minute with a clinical piece of finishing from the edge of the box after being set up by Ashley Young.
Nani had two great chances to increase the lead. And they looked costly misses when Shane Long equalised with a goal on his debut.
The former Reading striker cut in from the left and his shot crept under the body of new Reds’ keeper David de Gea who was at fault for the goal.
Rooney and Young had decent chances for United who brought on Dimitar Berbatov for Welbeck as they went pursuit of an equaliser.
They had to wait until the 81st minute when Young’s trickery on the left unlocked the Baggies’ defence. He found the net from the tightest of angles, though it needed the help of a double deflection off Gabriel Tamas and Steven Reid for the ball to beat keeper Ben Foster.
It was a goal which Young later said he will claim, but it will be referred to the dubious goals panel who looked likely to award it to either of the Baggies players who got an untimely touch.