Sir Alex Ferguson has backed David de Gea to survive his tough Premier League baptism.
Ferguson spent £18million on the 20-year-old Spaniard this summer having decided he was the man to replace Edwin van der Sar as Manchester United's first-choice keeper. All he got against West Brom on Sunday was a bag of nerves as De Gea failed to impose himself in aerial combat, then got beaten by West Brom debutant Shane Long.
The mistake gifted West Brom an equaliser after Wayne Rooney had put the champions into a 12th-minute lead and it took Ashley Young's deflected effort near the end to spare De Gea's blushes. But the United boss said: "He is young. He will learn. He will come through. David's concentration cost him the goal. It was a slack goal to lose but it is an experience for the lad."
He added: "I couldn't believe he never got a free-kick in the second-half. The aerial assault on him was ridiculous.
"It was the same when Peter Schmeichel came (in 1991). They punished him in his first few games against Leeds and Wimbledon. They have him a real torrid time.
"In the second half David was targeted a bit. Not necessarily physically but there were a lot of challenges that should have been free-kicks but the referee decided to play on."
Already, Ferguson must decide whether to take De Gea out of the firing line and draft in the greater physical presence of Anders Lindegaard.
It was just part of the problem on a weekend when United were able to capitalise on the failure of three other title rivals to open their campaigns with a win as both Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic limped off.
"Rio has a hamstring injury. He will be out for six weeks," said Ferguson. "With Nemanja, we hope it is a nerve in his calf. He felt it prior to the game but he wanted to play. That maybe a couple of weeks."
In addition, Rafael is out for 10 weeks after dislocating his shoulder.
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