Leeds and Man United have shared several players over the years, with most catching minimal flack over the divide, but some players, especially from a Leeds United stand point, have broken an unwritten code… but what were the reasons?
In a fantastic piece, written in February 2017, by Ben Dirs for Training Ground Guru, former Leeds United ace Alan Smith pours out his love for the game and why he still had the fire in his belly at 36, how playing in League Two was not beneath him and perhaps most interestingly of all, especially to the Leeds fans, he speaks further of that controversial switch over the Pennines to arch rivals Manchester United.
Smith, who last plied his trade for Notts County in League Two, spoke of his move to Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United in 2004, elaborating on just what made him realise that their was a financial issue at the club, he had this to say…
“I was just a kid playing football, still living with my mum and dad, so I didn’t know what was going on behind the scenes. When we sold Rio Ferdinand it made some sense – Man Utd had offered £30m, so you could understand it.
“It was when Jonathan Woodgate left that I realised something was badly wrong. He had come through the youth team with me, was a big character, our best defender, an England international and I knew he had no desire to leave.”
When pushed by Dirs, on the circumstances surrounding “that” move, he responded with this…
“I’ve never spoken about it because I’ve never felt I had to justify myself. By trying to justify the move I would have dragged the name of Leeds United through the mud and been disrespectful to Man Utd, by suggesting I only went there because I had to. I did say on telly that I’d never play for Man Utd. But Leeds always said they’d never sell me and I thought they’d never get relegated”
“The new owners of the club told me that if I didn’t sign for Man Utd, there was a chance Leeds might go under”
“Man Utd weren’t offering the most, but they were paying up front. I understood why people slagged me off – I did it myself when Eric Cantona left Leeds for Man Utd. But I was joining the biggest club in Britain, and it was a massive honour that Sir Alex Ferguson wanted me.”
This may get mixed reactions from the Leeds United faithful, but Smith has been open and honest regarding the whole situation, with his love for Leeds United still tangible, but he was a professional footballer who was playing for his boyhood club, a club that ran into financial difficulties , difficulties that made him more of an asset to the club rather than a son, so a sale was inevitable… it just appears that Leeds United as a club benefited more from a deal with their arch rivals so this was the decision Smith made.
What do we think Leeds fans?
Has the dust settled enough for you to allow him back into your hearts or does he still fall into the “Judas” file in your minds?