Champions quickly into stride – and injury crisis

WEST BROM (1) vs MANCHESTER UTD (2)

Ferdinand, Vidic and Rafael sidelined as keeper
De Gea gives Ferguson further cause for concern

MANCHESTER UNITED manager Sir Alex Ferguson bemoaned “a torrid few days” after the champions’ winning start to their Premier League title defence was tainted by injuries to three key defenders.

A late Steven Reid own goal about which the West Brom full-back could do little handed United maximum points, after Shane Long’s speculative shot embarrassed David de Gea and cancelled out Wayne Rooney’s opener.

But Ferguson was far from triumphant as he defended another blunder by young goalkeeper De Gea and lamented the loss of first choice centre-backs Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic and full-back Rafael da Silva.

Ferdinand has been ruled out for six weeks with a hamstring injury, meaning he will miss England Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales, while Vidic is likely to be out for a fortnight and Rafael 10 weeks with a dislocated shoulder suffered in training on Friday.

“We’ve had a torrid few days, but at least Patrice [Evra] will be back next week so we’ve got options,” said Ferguson, referring to his preferred left-back.

Ferguson admitted new boy De Gea, 20, who was criticised for his display in last weekend’s Community Shield, “should have done better” on Long’s equaliser but argued the slight Spaniard had been buffeted throughout by West Brom players. “The aerial assault on him was ridiculous,” he added. “It’s a learning process for him too. You just give him a pat on the head and say welcome to England.”

United, however, cannot be downhearted at already being two points ahead of title rivals Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal, and buzzed from the start, summer signing Young impressing on the left wing.

He was involved in the the first goal on 13 minutes, which saw Rooney engineer space on the edge of the penalty area and fire a low left-foot shot into the far corner.

Long equalised on his debut before half-time, his drive slipping under De Gea’s sluggish dive, but Young created the winner when he got to the byline and his cross ricocheted in off Reid.