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    Van Persie strike keeps Manchester United on top

    Manchester: Manchester United remain top of the Premier League after a nervy 1-0 win over West Ham United at Old Trafford thanks to an early goal from Robin van Persie. The hosts made five changes for the game with Chris Smalling, Michael Carrick, Anderson, Tom Cleverley and Javier Hernandez all coming in. West Ham, meanwhile, also opted to freshen up their team with Guy Demel, James Collins, Matt Jarvis and Matt Taylor all starting.

    Having gone behind nine times already this season, Manchester United this time started the game strongly and took the lead with just 33 seconds on the clock, the fastest Premier League goal so far this season.

    A measured pass from Carrick found Van Persie just inside the West Ham box. The Dutchman's exquisite turn and touch took him past Winston Reid, and his second was a finish which deflected off James Collins and looped over a stranded Jussi Jaaseklainen to hand United the lead.

    The early goal shocked West Ham, who saw Kevin Nolan booked minutes later for a cynical foul on Cleverley, but they slowly came back into the game, with their high balls into the box causing the hosts problems at the back.

    Indeed with just 10 minutes on the clock, a left-wing free kick found Nolan in space at the near post. The former Newcastle man flicked a header goalwards, that looked to have Lindegaard beaten, but only flew into the side-netting.

    Midway through the first half and Andy Carroll came close to an equaliser. A weak clearing header from Jonny Evans fell kindly for the striker but his turn and volley from close range flew over the United bar.

    In contrast, the hosts were finding chances hard to come by although Anderson and Hernandez both forced Jaaskelainen to save well on the half hour mark with low, curling efforts.

    The second half saw West Ham start strongly yet it was Manchester United who enjoyed the most chances after the break.

    A Cleverley volley after a touch from Van Persie forced Jaaskelainen to tip the ball over the bar before the goalkeeper was called into action again, this time saving comfortably from a Van Persie free kick.

    And the Finn was called into action again on the hour mark after Anderson picked out an unmarked Rooney lurking on the edge of the box. The England man attempted to curl a shot into the far corner but again the West Ham keeper was equal to it, tipping his effort around the post.

    Yet perhaps the best chance of the game fell to the visitors with just eight minutes to go. Yet another long ball into the box from Collins, was brought down by substitute Carlton Cole who fired goalwards on the turn but could not beat Lindegaard who saved crucially for the hosts.

    As the 90 minute mark approached, and just a one-goal lead to the good, a degree of anxiety crept into the hosts' game. Yet they managed to hold on to preserve their lead, and their position at the top of the table.