Robin van Persie's fastest goal of season keeps Man Utd top
Manchester rivals City also get a win – but there are still no goals from Chelsea under Benitez
ROBIN VAN PERSIE scored the fastest Premier League goal of the season as Manchester United beat West Ham 1-0 last night to remain top of the table. It took the Dutch striker just 32 seconds to find the visitors' net, a goal that keeps United a point clear of Manchester City in second spot.
Afterwards manager Alex Ferguson expressed satisfaction with the result, particularly as there were signs the United defence is becoming more organised ahead of what will be a busy festive period of football. "We're coming to a really important time in the season where our defending, if it improves, will give us a great chance," explained Ferguson.
Manchester City maintained their unbeaten start to the Premier League season with a 2-0 win away at Wigan. The reigning champions left it late to finish off their hosts, with Mario Balotelli marking his return to the starting line-up with a goal on 69 minutes, before James Milner doubled City's advantage three minutes later.
"We knew this game was going to be difficult," said City boss Roberto Mancini, "but in the end we deserved to win because we showed good patience." Asked if there was any truth in rumours the club would be selling Balotelli in the New Year, Mancini replied: "No, we are not looking to sell Mario. I'm very happy for him because he scored his first goal this season, and I hope he can improve on this."
There was little improvement in Chelsea's performance as they were held 0-0 at home to Fulham. It was the Blues' sixth league match in a row without a win and new manager Rafa Benitez has now gone two games without seeing his side score. The Chelsea fans didn't welcome him with quite the same disdain that they showed at the weekend, but a chorus of boos still rang out around Stamford Bridge at the final whistle.
The lacklustre performance leaves Chelsea in third place but they are now six points behind City with the Manchester pair beginning to disappear out of sight at the top of the table. Asked afterwards if he believed Chelsea were still in with a shout of the title, Benitez replied: "It's still a long way to go. We have to keep going. We'll have chances. Remember last season when City were ahead and it was 'easy'. Then they needed to win their last game. It's a long, long competition."
Arsenal and Everton shared the spoils at Goodison Park, the 1-1 scoreline doing neither club much good in the title race. Theo Walcott scored for the Gunners in the first minute, only for Marouane Fellaini to level for the Toffees after another defensive Arsenal blunder. The result leaves Everton in sixth spot on 22 points, with Arsenal one place below and with one point fewer. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger said: "I think a point is fair for both teams as both sides played with high commitment."
West Bromwich Albion's fine start to the season came to a shuddering halt in Swansea. The Welsh side ran out 3-1 winners, a victory that moves them up into seventh place, one point behind Arsenal. Albion remain in fourth despite the setback but Tottenham are now breathing down their neck following their 2-1 defeat of Liverpool. Spurs winger Gareth Bale scored for each team but fortunately Aaron Lennon also netted for the Lilywhites to continue their recent run of good form.
"To get a win from a midweek league fixture is important," said Tottenham boss Andre Villas-Boas. "We benefited from a couple of results of other teams around us tonight. We're three points from third - we want to be third."
In the evening's two other matches, it finished one apiece between Southampton and Norwich, while Stoke City came from behind with two second-half goals in four minutes to beat Newcastle 2-1.