It was not a vintage performance from Manchester United but the Red Devils managed to keep West Ham at bay for 93 minutes to hold on to the top spot in the Barclay's Premier League. Robin van Persie scored the fastest goal of this season's campaign, netting after 31 seconds.
United looked less than comfortable against a resilient West Ham team that, on one or two occasions, looked likely to level the score. United's defense held firm to deny the Hammers any hope of taking even a point from their trip to Old Trafford. Sir Alex Ferguson chose to omit Rio Ferdinand from central defense going with Chris Smalling instead and the young English defender put in a solid shift next to Jonny Evans.
The game's only goal came after just 31 seconds when van Persie expertly turned past the West Ham defenders and sent a shot, that took a beneficial deflection, up and over goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen. It looked like it was surely going to be a long miserable night for the West Ham back line but after an initial ten minutes of nice play and pressure from the hosts, United took their foot off of the pedal and played a relatively risky defensive game for the remainder of the match. Ferguson's decision to not play a wide player in midfield may have limited United's chances going forward but with Antonio Valencia and Nani injured and Ashley Young failing to impress in his last couple of games, the Scot was perhaps justified in the line-up he chose. Nevertheless, the Old Trafford faithful must have been surprised when their team went into the halftime break only leading by one goal to nil.
The second half began with United playing the same lackluster football that they played in the first with players giving the ball away and not making the most of their opportunities. Wayne Rooney especially was wasteful with his chances that saw him consistently blast his shots well over the bar. Young was eventually introduced into the match after 66 minutes but failed to put in any meaningful balls across the face of goal. The match fell to the Red Devil's defense to make sure that the team did not allow the Hammers back into the game and, for the most part, they succeeded with Rafael in particular putting in a solid performance. The Brazilian right back was able to provide a constant attacking threat on the wings in addition to getting back and helping his defense keep a clean sheet. West Ham had their chances though as Anders Lindegaard was called upon on one or two occasions to make a vital save. United had to survive a late scare when Patrice Evra played a sloppy ball in the direction of Lindegaard that could have led to disastrous consequences but Phil Jones was able to clear the ball before a West Ham striker could get a foot on it.
United tended to live dangerously especially in the second 45 but with resolute defending and the calm, commanding presence of Lindegaard, the Red Devils were able to maintain their one point advantage at the top of the league table.
Man of the Match: Rafael. The Brazilian defender put in a hard-working and tireless performance, consistently providing a threat going forward as well as proving more than a match for West Ham's attackers. Rafael has definitely made the right back position his this season.
Manchester United: Anders Lindegaard; Rafael, Patrice Evra, Jonny Evans, Chris Smalling; Anderson (Phil Jones), Michael Carrick, Tom Cleverley (Ashley Young); Wayne Rooney (Danny Welbeck), Chicharito, Robin van Persie
West Ham: Jussi Jaaskelainen; Winston Reid, Joey O'Brien, James Collins, Guy Demel; Kevin Nolan, James Tomkins, Matthew Jarvis (Modibo Maiga), Matthew Taylor, Mohamed Diame (Gary O'Neil); Andrew Carroll (Carlton Cole)Anders Lindegaard, Manchester, Manchester United, Premier League, Rafael, Robin van Persie, Sir Alex Ferguson, Soccer, Wayne Rooney, West Ham