BIRMINGHAM, Aug 15, 2011 (AFP) - Sir Alex Ferguson insists that £18.3 million goalkeeper David De Gea will become a Manchester United sensation despite the Spaniard's howler which allowed West Brom to creep back into Sunday's Premier League clash.
De Gea, signed from Atletico Madrid in the summer, was responsible for allowing Shane Long to mark his Albion debut with an equalising goal after Wayne Rooney's opener at the Hawthorns before the champions clinched a 2-1 win.
De Gea let Long's timid shot pass under his arms and immediately generated comparisons with Massimo Taibi -- United's error-prone former Italian goalkeeper -- as well as raising further questions over whether he is capable of handling the pressure at Old Trafford.
However, Ferguson believes it will be the perfect character test to see if the 20-year-old can fill the void left by retired star Edwin van der Sar.
"I said welcome to English football to him at half-time. We lost a goal that David should have done better on. Maybe it was a lack of concentration," Ferguson said.
Ferguson also laid down a marker with referees after Mike Jones of failing to give De Gear sufficient protection.
"He took a bit of a battering in the second half and he should have been protected better by the referee, but he was not," Ferguson said.
"It was good experience for him and if my recollection serves me correctly, coming from European football is a learning process for a goalkeeper.
"Peter Schmeichel's first game was on a wet Wednesday night against Wimbledon and he had a difficult time.
"His following game was against Leeds when he let in a poor goal. He went on to be arguably one of the greatest goalkeepers in the club's history in my opinion.
"De Gea is only 20 and he is very much a work in progress."
Meanwhile, Ferguson faces a defensive injury crisis just one match into the new season after Rio Ferdinand and Nemanja Vidic limped out of Sunday's victory.
Ferguson confirmed England defender Ferdinand is likely to be out for six weeks with a hamstring problem, while Serbian centre-back Vidic suffered a calf injury.
Ferdinand will almost certainly be out of England's Euro 2012 qualifiers against Bulgaria and Wales but more crucially the 32-year-old appears to be facing a fitness struggle to avoid being absent for the vital trip to face joint group leaders Montenegro at the start of October.
Vidic is awaiting checks on a calf problem could keep him sidelined for two weeks and on top of that double blow, Ferguson also discovered on Sunday that Brazilian right-back Rafael da Silva will be out for 10 weeks with a dislocated shoulder.
"We think it is a nerve problem with Vidic and he could be out for two weeks," Ferguson said. "We have had a torrid two or three days. Rafael will be out for 10 weeks and he will need an operation on his shoulder."
Meanwhile, West Brom manager Roy Hodgson was hugely disappointed not to be able to hang on to a share of the points and felt the football gods were against his side for the cruel deflection off Steven Reid which gave United victory nine minutes from time.
"Let's hope the sporting gods are on our side, because we feel there weren’t on this occasion," he said.
Hodgson also admitted his side are still some way from signing Owen Hargreaves, but he has condemned Wigan chairman Dave Whelan for an insulting bid for Peter Odemwingie believed to be in the region of £3 million.
"Peter is not for sale and if you had seen the size of the bid you would be laughing all the way here," he said.
"I don’t know what provokes teams to put in a bid which is so ludicrously low. I could put in a bid for Wayne Rooney."