Fergie's challenge to Howard

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Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has thrown down the gauntlet to American keeper Tim Howard.

Howard was handed his first start in The Premiership since September in the win over Portsmouth on Saturday, taking over in goal from Roy Carroll.

Carroll paid the price for his blunder against Milan in the UEFA Champions League in midweek and it would appear as if Howard now has the chance to claim the number one jersey at Old Trafford.

"Roy Carroll made a big mistake on Wednesday," said Ferguson. "I don't think he was totally responsible but maybe he is better out of it so I can give Tim Howard his go.

"We have the important game in Milan looming in 10 days' time and I want to see how Tim responds to the challenge."

Carroll's future at Old Trafford must now be in doubt, as he has failed to agree terms over a new contract and would be allowed to leave on a Bosman in the summer if no agreement is found.