15 Aug 2011

Man U beat West Brom late

6:00 am on 15 August 2011

Manchester United have started the defence of their English Premier League football title with a hard-fought 2-1 win over West Bromwich Albion, while new Chelsea boss Andre Villas-Boas watched his side draw nil-all at Stoke.

Sir Alex Ferguson sent out a youthful United team including Tom Cleverley, Danny Welbeck, Chris Smalling and Fabio da Silva, as well as debutants David De Gea and Ashley Young, and they needed a late Steven Reid own goal to seal the points at the Hawthorns.

While there was a freshness about United's line-up, it was Wayne Rooney, one of Ferguson's more seasoned campaigners, who opened the scoring in the 13th minute when he finished a flowing move with a fine strike from just inside the penalty area.

United winger Nani squandered two chances to extend the lead before De Gea gifted Albion an equaliser in the 37th minute.

The Spanish goalkeeper, signed from Atletico Madrid to replace the retired Edwin van der Sar, had already been criticised for his role in two of Manchester City's goals in last weekend's Community Shield and this was an even worse mistake.

Shane Long cut into the penalty area from the left and hit a low shot that De Gea should have dealt with easily, but the 20-year-old made a complete hash of his attempted save and allowed the ball to squirm under his arms.

United lost central defenders Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic to injuries in the second half, but they snatched the points in the 81st minute when Reid deflected Young's cross into his own goal.

At the Britannia Stadium, Villas-Boas's side failed to impress in the first half, but improved after the interval and the Portuguese coach would have been celebrating a winning start but for three fine saves from Stoke goalkeeper Asmir Begovic.

Arsenal and Liverpool also endured underwhelming starts to the season as both were held to draws yesterday.

FA Cup winners Manchester City kick off against Swansea at Eastlands tomorrow.