Robin Van Persie’s first minute goal was enough for Manchester United to sneak past West Ham at Old Trafford and remain top of the Premier League.
Sir Alex Ferguson’s side had regained top spot over after usurping Manchester City with a win over QPR before watching their local adversaries draw at Chelsea on Sunday.
But they were made to earn their seventh victory in eight league games by the Hammers, who faced an uphill battle after going behind before the clock had completed a full revolution.
Just 32 seconds had ticked by when Van Persie lifted the ball over Winston Reid, after being found by Michael Carrick on the edge of the penalty area, before beating Jussi Jaaskelainen with the help of a deflection from James Collins.
Despite the early opener the home side’s nerves weren’t settled and the five changes Ferguson made to the starting lineup stifled any momentum built up at the weekend, allowing Sam Allardyce’s men a route back into the game.
Captain Kevin Nolan went closest, sending Matt Taylor’s free kick into the side netting before Andy Carroll struck wide as the visitors scented an equaliser in the Manchester air.
However, their lack of cutting edge up front prevented them from restoring parity and came close to falling further behind when Jaaskelainen dived to stop Javier Hernandez’s low strike from sneaking in.
The Finnish shot stopper also kept out a curling effort from Wayne Rooney in the second half before beating away Carrick’s goalbound header from Van Persie’s corner
Allardyce replaced Carroll with Carlton Cole and the England striker set up Taylor to force a top drawer save from Anders Lindegaard, with Modibo Maiga wasted a chance late on by firing just over the bar from the angle.