Ferguson buys £1.35m Howard unseen

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The American goalkeeper, Tim Howard, has signed for Manchester United. The former New York and New Jersey MetroStars player, who suffers from Tourette Syndrome, should be able to join United for pre-season training and a tour of his homeland.

Howard's visa documents are with the Home Office. He would not normally meet the requirements demanded of non-European Community citizens, but the signs are encouraging about his eligibility to come to Britain. Howard has a Hungarian passport and will be accorded special status. Hungary is joining the Eu and Government rules are that any "future candidate countries" can be afforded the same freedom of movement to work as present members.

Howard has agreed a four-year deal after a fee of £1.35m, rising to £1.8m on appearances. The United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, has not seen Howard play and has relied instead on the judgement of the goalkeeping coach and scout, Tony Coton.

Meanwhile, Ferguson wants the veteran defender Laurent Blanc to postpone his retirement and play another few months. United will be without Wes Brown for six months at least and Gary Neville is also a doubt for the first couple of months. The Rangers defender, Lorenzo Amoruso yesterday claimed that United had been in touch about a possible move.