Howard not number one

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With Fabien Barthez preparing to leave for Marseille, Manchester United's Tim Howard could be forgiven for believing that his position as first-choice goalkeeper was set in concrete.

According to the strapping American, though, that is not the case. Even though neither Barthez nor Roy Carroll have looked likely to challenge him so far this season, Howard still believes he is not the United number one.

"I am not one to say I am the number one goalkeeper," Howard stressed. "At a club like United with the quality of goalkeepers we have, or who we can go out and buy, you are not guaranteed your job."

Further still, the modest Howard has even admitted to being surprised at becoming the club's regular first team goalkeeper on his arrival at Old Trafford.

"There is no way I thought I'd come here and be the first choice straight away and I don't look upon myself as that now either," he told Manchester Evening News.

"I thought I'd come to United and be worked and hand-held for a while. I thought it would be a matter of one game here and then out, another game there and then out again.

"I expected to be dipping my feet in like a little puppy dog, just touching the water before jumping in. That was the plan as I thought. No way I thought it would be like this."

However, the statistics speak for themselves, United having lost just twice so far this season with Howard having kept five clean sheets. It seems to the 24-year-old that somebody forgot to tell him something when he signed for The Red Devils during the summer.

"It seems the club had other ideas," he said. "It was never a case for me that the club had bought so here I am and I will be number one. I would never have thought that."

Despite his dream start though, Howard is determined to keep his feet firmly on the ground, knowing full well that at some point he will suffer a rude awakening.

"I am a realist and without being pessimistic my bad day will come."

And Howard was full of praise and thanks for the way in which his goalkeeping colleagues at United have treated him since his arrival.

"If my time comes that I am out of the side I hope and believe I will handle it just like Fabien and Roy have been doing. They have been great to me, although it must be hard for them. There has been no malice.

"If I lose my place then I aim to be as professional and as much a gentleman as they have been and be behind the manager's choice all the way, although working hard to get back in."