Evra doubtful for Man United's opener against WBA

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Headline: Soccer-Dateline: August 12, 2011

By Sonia Oxley

MANCHESTER, England, Aug 12 (Reuters) - Left back Patrice Evra is doubtful for champions Manchester United's Premier League opener against West Bromwich Albion, manager Alex Ferguson said on Friday.

The Frenchman tweaked his knee in last Sunday's Community Shield when United came from behind to beat neighbours Manchester City 3-2 at Wembley.

"We'll give him until tomorrow but he is doubtful," Ferguson told a news conference ahead of Sunday's trip to West Brom.

One player who will definitely miss out is Mexican striker Javier Hernandez who suffered a concussion during their pre-season tour of the United States.

"Chicharito is still, I would say, 10 days away from taking part in any football," said Ferguson. "It's not a concern, just a precaution given the fact had a concussion a couple of years back."

United begin the defence of their title away from home, where they struggled last term and gathered only 25 points from a possible 57.

"We had the worst record away from home in the Premier division and the best home record in the Premier division so what do we do about it? I don't know. It was surprising the number of points we dropped away from home I must say," Ferguson said. "I agree with you (that we can't bank on our home form this season)."

They go into the opener in good spirits after fighting back from two goals down against City thanks to an inspired second-half performance from youngsters such as midfielder Tom Cleverley and defender Phil Jones.

Whether his young players have done enough to earn first-team spots remains to be seen but they are certainly on Ferguson's radar.

"We've got a strong squad ... I think picking a team is maybe easier with the second-half performance last week in some ways but we still have to respect the experience of the ones who came off at halftime," the manager said.

Having marched to a record 19th league title last season, United have been installed as favourites to win another.

"Probably the fact we won so well last Sunday (has made us favourites)," said Ferguson before pointing out that Manchester City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Arsenal were all contenders.

"We used to talk about top four but now we talk about top six really."

(Editing by Ed Osmond; To query or comment on this story email: sportsfeedback@thomsonreuters.com)

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