MANCHESTER, England - Robin van Persie scored his Premier League-leading 14th goal of the season on Saturday as Manchester United beat West Bromwich Albion 2-0 for its seventh win in eight matches.
Van Persie came off the bench to curl in a brilliant 90th-minute shot to record his 17th goal in all competitions and add to West Brom defender Gareth McAuley's own goal from Ashley Young's cross in the ninth minute at Old Trafford.
United will enter 2013 with a seven-point lead in the standings from defending champion Manchester City in search of a record 20th league championship.
The return of captain Nemanja Vidic helped United to finish only its fourth league game this season without conceding a goal. The Serbian centre back has been plagued by injuries in the past 16 months.
Danny Welbeck and Shinji Kagawa, who played for the first time since injuring a knee in October, also played very well.
United should have led by more than 1-0 at halftime with Vidic twice heading wide and West Brom defender Gabriel Tamas turning away Michael Carrick's goal-bound shot.
Ben Foster, the former United goalkeeper now at the Baggies, made a brilliant save to deflect Young's half-volley onto the crossbar.
Van Persie's arrival midway through the second period was greeted with enthusiasm by the crowd, underlining the his influence since his preseason move from Arsenal.
He was denied by Foster with nine minutes remaining but the former England 'keeper could do nothing about the Netherlands forward's late shot, which curled expertly into the top corner from Paul Scholes' pass.
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