Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie (L) celebrates his all-important goal with teammate Wayne Rooney during their Premier League encounter against West Ham United at Old Trafford on Wednesday.Photo: AFP
Robin van Persie scored the fastest goal of the English Premier League season as Manchester United stayed a point clear at the top with a 1-0 win over West Ham at Old Trafford on Wednesday.
The Dutch forward needed just 33 seconds to give United the lead when, after receiving the ball from Michael Carrick, his first touch eluded Winston Reid before his finish deflected off James Collins and looped over Hammers goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen.
Van Persie's goal was all the more extraordinary as, prior to Wednesday's match, United had conceded the first goal 13 times already this season.
However, they remained just a point in front after reigning champions and local rivals Manchester City, who won 2-0 away to Wigan.
City, the only unbeaten side in the top flight, looked like they might be held to a frustrating draw before striker Mario Balotelli scored his first league goal of the season in the 69th minute.
And three minutes later England midfielder James Milner made it 2-0 with a powerful shot.
European champions Chelsea suffered their second straight home goalless draw, under interim manager Rafael Benitez, a derby stalemate with Fulham doing little for his approval rating with the sceptical Stamford Bridge faithful.
Chelsea moved up one place to third but, more significantly, they are now seven points behind United.
Van Persie's effort trumped that in an earlier kick-off match of his former Arsenal team-mate Theo Walcott, who took a comparatively sedate 52 seconds to give the Gunners the lead at Everton.
But Everton equalised through Marouane Fellaini 20-yard strike in the 28th minute at Goodison Park.
The draw left Arsenal, searching for their first major trophy since 2005, 12 points off the lead.
Tottenham moved into fifth with a 2-1 win at home to Liverpool.
Aaron Lennon put Spurs ahead in the seventh minute at White Hart Lane after good work by Gareth Bale before the Welshman doubled their advantage in the 22nd minute with a deflected free-kick.
Bale, however, gave Liverpool hope with a 72nd minute own-goal although there was little he could do when Lennon, trying to clear Steven Gerrard's goalbound header, smashed the ball into the winger's face.
Chelsea 0 Fulham 0
Everton 1 (Fellaini 28) Arsenal 1 (Walcott 1)
Manchester United 1 (Van Persie 1) West Ham 0
Southampton 1 (Lambert 32) Norwich 1 (Snodgrass 45)
Stoke 2 (Walters 81, Jerome 85) Newcastle 1 (Cisse 47)
Swansea 3 (Michu 9, Routledge 11, 39) West Brom 1 (Lukaku 45)
Tottenham 2 (Lennon 7, Bale 16) Liverpool 1 (Bale 72-og)
Wigan 0 Manchester City 2 (Balotelli 69, Milner 72)