Tim Howard book claims Brad Friedel tried to block Manchester United move

Everton and U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard says in his new autobiography that compatriot and fellow No. 1 Brad Friedel "actively tried to block" his 2003 move from Major League Soccer to Manchester United, a claim Friedel said was not true on Wednesday.

"Man U told us that Friedel had refused to submit a statement on my behalf," Howard says about his move to the Premier League in his book, "The Keeper," due out on Tuesday and excerpted exclusively on ESPNFC.com.

Howard writes: "'You're kidding me,' I said. Friedel was among what was then a handful of American players in the Premier League; his influence was huge. Having himself been denied several times, he understood better than anyone exactly what was at stake. Why wouldn't he vouch for me?

"I mean, who would sabotage his own countryman like that?"

It was the middle of the 2003 Major League Soccer season, and United paid a $4 million transfer fee to MLS, where Howard played with the MetroStars (now the New York Red Bulls), so he could take over from Fabien Barthez as the club's first-choice goalkeeper.

Howard, the 2014 U.S. Soccer Male Athlete of the Year who first represented his country in 2002, helped United win the 2003-04 FA Cup before being loaned out to Everton and eventually signing with the club in 2007.

He wrote in his book that he later learned from the legal team at United that Friedel -- then playing in the Premier League for Blackburn Rovers -- "hadn't merely refused to sign a statement on my behalf, he had actively tried to block my transfer. He'd written to the appeals committee suggesting that I shouldn't be given a work permit at all."

Friedel, however, told ESPN FC's Doug McIntyre on Wednesday that he never "wrote a letter of negativity toward Tim Howard to anybody in this world."

"So I got a call from Bruce Arena. He said, 'Brad, would you sign this letter on behalf of Tim Howard?' I said sure," Friedel said. "It was sent to me, and the only thing that was true on it was my name. The letter was full of exaggerations that the people on the PFA [Professional Footballers' Association] and appeals committee would have seen through.

"Yes, I refused to sign that. We got the letter and said 'We have to change this, because this isn't true.' We made our changes and sent it back. They didn't like what I was going to sign, so they didn't use it. And that was the end of the matter. There were a lot of rumors going around that I signed or got a petition together -- some nonsense like that -- against Tim Howard after he got granted his work permit.

"I'm very surprised to find something of this nature in Tim's book. I've done nothing to stand in anyone's way of getting a work permit. I've never done anything negative toward a U.S. player."

According to Howard's account in the book, the two eventually met: "The crux of his presentation was this: if he'd had this much trouble getting a work permit, why should he make it easy for me?

"'It's a matter of principle, you see,' he said. A matter of principle? Whatever his principles might have been, I knew they were different from my own.

"Besides, the simple fact was that Brad Friedel had tried to undermine the best opportunity of my career. If he'd have succeeded, it could have dealt a tremendous blow to my lifelong earnings and career ... and for what clear benefits?"

Howard recalls the meeting as "amicable enough" and said he didn't challenge anything Friedel said during their conversation.

"I wasn't going to argue with him. I shook Brad's hand, and we parted ways," Howard writes. "But as far as I was concerned -- and to borrow a favorite phrase from the Brits -- the guy could sod off."

After 45 Premier League appearances for United, Howard moved to Goodison Park on loan in 2006 and signed permanently the following year.

Howard is taking a break from international football after an acclaimed World Cup performance, including making a record 15 saves in the knockout stage defeat to Belgium.

ESPN FC has exclusive excerpts from Tim Howard's new book throughout the week.