Former Leeds United and Republic of Ireland midfielder Stephen McPhail has revealed that former teammate Alan Smith joined Manchester United against his will following Leeds relegation from the Premier League in 2004.
Leaving Leeds United to join Manchester United is never a good move in the eyes of the supporters but doing so following relegation is never going to be well received.
Speaking to Irish website the42, McPhail gave a fascinating insight of the club’s demise from the Champions League to the Championship.
McPhail claims Smith sacrificed himself so Leeds could get as much money as possible, by moving to Manchester United, and breaking the hearts of fans who had idolised him for years as one of their own.
He explained: “I played in Smudger’s last game – and it was signed, sealed, delivered that he was signing for United”.
“There were tears in his eyes in the dressing room afterwards. He really didn’t want to go but he knew, for the club, that he had to.
“It was emotional. A kid from Leeds signing for Manchester United? Not the thing to do. But fair play to him. He did what he had to do for the club. But it was devastating for him. And for others who grew up in the city.”
It was on May 8 2004 that Leeds were relegated, with Smith’s transfer to Manchester United confirmed later that month on May 26. The BBC reported at the time that Leeds received £6 million plus Danny Pugh for his services.
Smith going to Old Trafford from Leeds United was never going to be easy for the Manchester United fans to accept, but following his committed performances to the cause he was quickly accepted by the United fans.
In a game against Liverpool in the FA Cup, his commitment to the cause resulted in him breaking his leg and dislocating his ankle. Smith was out for eight months with many believing the injury resulted in him never getting back to his best form.
Perhaps the Leeds United fans will finally accept that Smith had the best intentions of the club at heart when he left in 2004.
Ironically Smith might have been just the player Leeds United needed to help them return to the Premier League, a feat they have failed to achieve since their relegation.
They were relegated alongside Wolves and current Premier League Champions Leicester City, watching Leicester this season will give the Elland Road fans belief that the good days might return one day.
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