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Kirovski, Birmingham win duel with Reyna, Manchester City 2-1.

Marcus Hahnemann Q&A

O'Brien returns to Ajax, playing for reserves in Amstel Cup.

Gregg Berhalter Q&A.

Howard works hard for Man. U. in defeat of Manchester City.

Lewis cracks starting lineup, sparks Preston North End twice.

Casey, Berhalter score as their teams draw in Germany.

Keller is key in Tottenham Carling Cup win, is named Spurs' best player.

Howard, Man. U. get the best of Friedel, Rovers before record crowd at Old Trafford.

Hahnemann's shutout leads Reading to 1-0 victory over Millwall.

Friedel, Rovers get back on winning track, 2-1 over Everton.

Americans Abroad

Howard's saves help Manchester United overcome Aston Villa 2-1 in FA Cup.

Tim Howard
Tim Howard's saves in the first half allowed Manchester United to overcome Aston Villa after intermission
-- Manchester United web site photo --
By Gary Davidson (in Washington, D.C.)

(Monday, January 5, 2004) -- United States goalkeeper Tim Howard made two big saves and Paul Scholes scored twice within a four-minute span in the second half, allowing visiting Manchester United to escape English Premier League rival Aston Villa 2-1 in the third round of the FA Cup before 40,371 at Villa Park yesterday.

"It was a good atmosphere. We got the win. That's what was important," Howard told the BBC. Aston Villa "played very well. Their crowd was behind them. They were up for the match. We matched their intensity in the second half."

Defender Gareth Barry put Villa ahead 1-0 in the 19th minute with a shot that deflected off defender Wes Brown and past Howard.

Villa, however, was left to rue missed chances when Howard made a pair of stops to keep United close. He made a brilliant save on Juan Pablo Angel, then also denied Darius Vassell.

It was "more reaction save than anything," Howard said of Angel's shot. "Just played the angle and got it right."

Manchester manager Alex Ferguson brought on striker Ruud Van Nistelrooy and midfielder Roy Keane in the 55th minute and the substitutes made a difference.

"They came on and gave us extra spark and they really drove us home," Howard said of the pair.

United pulled even at 1-1 when Scholes tapped in a cross from Ryan Giggs in the 64th minute. Four minutes later, another Giggs cross set up Scholes for a half volley past goalkeeper Thomas Sorenson.

Howard said he was happy to see the return of Brown, who had been out since May with an injury, especially with defender Rio Ferdinand facing an eight-month suspension for missing a mandatory drug test.

"We've been waiting for Wes to return and now with the prospect of Rio being out, we're happy to have Wes back," Howard said. "Wes is ready to play. He's always up for it and I thought he played well today."

Howard said he was generally unaware of the FA Cup growing up in New Jersey, but now knows how important the competition is.

"It's tremendously important. I think it's tremendously important every season for this club," Howard said. "We're happy to get through and get to the next round. I know it's a huge Cup. Certainly, I didn't watch it too much (in my youth)."

Howard said of his highly-successful first season with United: "I'm enjoying it, but every week is a challenge, a new challenge, so I just try to prepare myself every week. That's a lot of pressure."

Gary Davidson is a SoccerTimes managing editor and can be e-mailed at editor@soccertimes.com.

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