Everton goalkeeper Tim Howard's power of positive thinking
TIM HOWARD has turned Edwin van der Sar's remarkable run of clean sheets for Manchester United into a positive.
"At least they got rid of me for a legend!" he laughs.
Everton travel to Old Trafford tomorrow seeking to become the first team to pierce United's rearguard in the Premier League since Samir Nasri did it for Arsenal on November 8.
Eleven teams have tried - and failed - and now the Blues go there seeking to find a way past the giant Dutch goalkeeper.
"Edwin's done very well since he's arrived," explained Howard. "But it's not only him. He's fantastic, but that defence is rock solid.
"They really put pressure on you to try and score because they don't give you any chances.
"But we've been taking our chances when we get them.
"We gave them a good game when they came here so we'll be looking to do the same again."
That 'good game' saw the Blues come from a goal behind to earn a draw with Marouane Fellaini's header at Goodison.
The Blues also hit back at Old Trafford last season after Ronaldo had scored an early goal, Tim Cahill's header threatening to earn Everton a point until Steven Pienaar suffered an 87th minute brainstorm and conceded a penalty kick.
It's in games against the Premier League's top sides that concentration has to be maintained for 90 minutes and beyond.
Everton have suffered last minute heartache already this season against Aston Villa, and last season experienced injury time angst at Chelsea.
Wednesday night's dramatically late leveller from Arsenal underlined the harsh lesson.
"We did well on Wednesday and dominated the game for the most part," added Howard. "But we didn't see it out so I guess we got what we deserved.
"Arsenal can produce that kind of magic after 94 minutes which is why they're the club they are and where they are. We have to take that. The manager and Steve Round both told us we have to fight for 94 minutes - that was the exact number they said and they were right.
"We did it for 93 and a half and have to put that right. Our endeavour, our effort, our skill set with some of our players, and the ability to take the fight to teams is all there.
"We just fell a little bit short in the areas of trying to kill the game off when we had it won - and that shows."
Tomorrow's United trip comes in the middle of a gruelling run of fixtures against three of the Premier League's top four sides.
If David Moyes adopted his United counterpart's conspiracy theory mindset, he might raise an eyebrow at being forced to face Liverpool, Arsenal and United in successive games.
But Howard believes such intensity of fixture planning can be beneficial.
"I think so," he admitted. "It's hard on us, but when you play in those atmospheres and get that experience it can't be taken away from you.
"It hardens you as a group, makes you mentally strong. We've come together and got a good spirit.
"Obviously, Saturday is a massive challenge.
"Every game is tough, but this is a big game and the next week and a half there will be some other big ones.
"If we can come out of this with our heads above water then we can really start pushing on and looking up."
Everton go to Old Trafford expecting to be put under extreme pressure.
And if Ferguson ends the evening complaining about Everton parking a bus in front of Tim Howard's goal the Blues keeper will be delighted.
"That happens when you're the away team," he said. "You have to take a lot of pressure and sometimes you have to see games out and try and defend.
"Against Arsenal was a night we had to entertain and we did that. We took the fight to them which was natural because we were at home.
"But the late goal was a sickener."
At least Arsene Wenger left Goodison singing Everton's praises.
"I have seen something that has underlined what I have always felt. Everton are as big a threat to us as Aston Villa," he declared.
"Everton are a very good side, and they are our rivals for a top four place just as much as Villa.
"They play with a fantastic spirit, and in Tim Cahill they have a player who is very intelligent, he always knows where to be. That is something that is hard to teach, but he always seems to be in the right place."
Howard will be happier if Ferguson is less magnanimous tomorrow evening . . . because that will mean the Blues have extended their unbeaten record to a 10th match - and van der Sar's long unbeaten record might finally have fallen.