West Brom 1:2 Manchester United

The champions kicked off the Barclays Premier League season with a hard-fought victory at West Brom, repeating last season’s 2-1 success thanks to a strike from Wayne Rooney and an own-goal by Steven Reid.

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Rooney drilled in an early opener but debutant Shane Long shot past David De Gea for a surprise equaliser and it took Young, on his first league appearance for the Reds, to set up the winner with nine minutes left.

United made an impressive statement of intent from the first whistle as the bold, youthful line-up selected by Sir Alex posted a positive start. Although Paul Scharner managed the first effort of note, it was all United and there was no surprise when Wayne Rooney drew first blood – as he did in this fixture last term.

Rooney expertly flicked a Fabio pass out to Young before collecting the return ball and curling a left-footed finish beyond the reach of Ben Foster in the 13th minute. The Reds were in control with Rooney blasting wide after being afforded too much space and Nani casually lifting a finish wastefully over the top following good approach work by Rooney and Danny Welbeck.

Nani again shot too high when Foster could only pat down a Young corner but Albion worked their way back into the game ominously. De Gea made a flying stop to thwart Scharner, who had stormed onto Long’s lay-off but, two minutes later, the Spanish keeper coped less effectively when Long decided to have a crack himself. The Irishman fired across De Gea when Chris Smalling was unable to prevent the shot from the left-hand side of the box.

Conceding an equaliser was harsh on United but the defence seemed to lose some concentration as Fabio’s panicky header away allowed Chris Brunt to volley over the bar. And De Gea had to claw away a Somen Tchoyi cross that deflected off Nemanja Vidic and worryingly looped goalwards as half-time approached.

The second period became less eventful and there was a blow when captain Vidic finally made away after failing to shrug off a knock. United failed to carry any significant threat with Rooney glancing a header wide from a rare half-chance and Nani’s free-kick coming to nothing after Young was felled on the edge of the box by Brunt.

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Dimitar Berbatov was introduced in a bid to add more of a cutting edge but it was Young who continued to provide much of the attacking thrust. The former Aston Villa winger’s dipping shot drifted just wide of the far post with Foster flailing at thin air.

Nani sent an awkward header wide from Fabio’s left-wing cross and the visitors’ attempts to create any sustained pressure were affected when another injury disrupted the defence – with Ferdinand having to be replaced by Phil Jones, leaving a very youthful back-five for the final quarter of an hour.

Such setbacks would have a major detrimental impact on lesser teams but the champions are made of sterner stuff and snatched the winner with nine minutes left. Berbatov played the ball off to Young, who showed real intent to fly down the left past Brunt and see his cross deflect off Tamas and, ultimately, Reid before nestling in the back of the net.

Tchoyi lashed one effort off target and De Gea safely fielded a Brunt effort as the Reds held out – to their great credit – to start the defence of the title with a valuable away win.

Glory Glory ManUnited!Soccer ball

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