NEWS
08/14/2011 04:59 EDT | Updated 10/14/2011 05:12 EDT

Man United opens its Premier League defence with victory over West Brom side

LONDON - Manchester United opened its Premier League title defence with a victory over West Bromwich Albion on Sunday while Andre Villas-Boas' first match with Chelsea ended in a tie at Stoke.

Ashley Young's cross was deflected into the net by West Brom defender Steven to clinch a 2-1 victory for Sir Alex Ferguson's side.

At the start of United's quest for a 20th English title, Wayne Rooney gave United an early lead.

But renewed questions were raised about new goalkeeper David de Gea after the 20-year-old Spaniard allowed Shane Long's angled strike go under him as West Brom tied it before halftime.

"It was just a bit of concentration there but welcome to English football," Ferguson said. "He came in for it in the second half and I thought he should have been protected more by the referee, but it was a good experience for him.

"It's all a learning process."

While a moment of late good fortune helped De Gea, there was no such luck for Villas-Boas.

In a frustrating start to Premier League management, the Portuguese coach's side was held to a 0-0 tie at Stoke with several penalty appeals turned down.

"I can't be pleased with a point but it's one of the most difficult grounds to play at," Villas-Boas said. "For our title challenge I would say one point at Stoke is not bad.

"It's not the greatest start to the Premier League of course."

That stalemate followed ties for Arsenal and Liverpool on Saturday. Manchester City's season doesn't start until Monday when the big-spending club hosts Swansea.

United's victory at West Brom came with a price.

Rio Ferdinand sustained a hamstring injury that will sideline him for six weeks while fellow centre back Nemanja Vidic faces two weeks off due to a calf injury.

United will also be without right back Rafael da Silva for the first 10 weeks of the season after injuring a shoulder in training ahead of the season opener.

At least Rooney is off the mark already, latching on to Young's pass and shooting into the bottom corner from 20 yards in the 13th minute.

"The first 25 minutes we were superb, the movement of the ball was great, but then we slowed and lost momentum," Ferguson said. "We lost a goal which David should have done better with."

De Gea's 37th-minute mistake in allowing Long's shot into the net came on his first league appearance since being signed to replace retiring 40-year-old goalkeeper Edwin van der Sar.

West Brom manager Roy Hodgson was frustrated his team conceded the late own goal.

"It was close," he said. "Our performance was very good, and we're sad not to hold on but very pleased with our team's performance.

"We played ourselves into the game and deserved a result for long periods of the game, but unfortunately Young got that bit of luck and that changed the complexion of things."

At the Britannia Stadium, Villas-Boas was unhappy with the extent of Stoke's physicality in the tie.

It was his first match back in an English dugout since working for Jose Mourinho during his three years as Chelsea manager between 2004-07.

"A point I want to make when you are playing difficult games like this one is the amount of pushing and grabbing in the box, because it's out of this world," the former FC Porto manager said. "We are OK to deal with Stoke's set plays and we were competent enough to avoid the dangers they cause.

"We know the amount of goals they score with these set plays, but I think there's a limit to the pushing and grabbing, it makes it impossible."

Fernando Torres, preferred to Didier Drogba and Nicolas Anelka as the lone striker, looked lively and caused Stoke problems. But he couldn't score, leaving the Spaniard with just one goal since being signed in January.

Chelsea had several penalty appeals turned down, including when Salomon Kalou fell following Glenn Whelan's tackle and Frank Lampard went down under a challenge from Marc Wilson.