MX23RW : Wednesday, November 25 13:41:18| >> :60:2622:2622:

On this day: Alan Smith upsets Leeds fans by making Manchester United move

Eleven years ago today, Alan Smith swapped Leeds United for bitter rivals Manchester United.

In an interview with Soccer AM during the early 2000s, Alan Smith, then of Leeds United, was asked a host of questions, including: "Is there a team you'd never play for?"

"Yeah, Man United" came the reply from the boyhood Leeds fan, before a smirk crept across his lips.

Despite being around 45 miles apart, the rivalry between Manchester United and Leeds is one of the most intense in English football. So, being a Rothwell lad, Smith's response was hardly a surprising one.

However, fast forward to the summer of 2004 and Smith was preparing to make the most dramatic of U-turns.

The well documented financial crisis at Elland Road had seen a whole host of players leave Leeds, but Smith, who was the jewel in the crown, had stayed put. Such loyalty made him a hero among the Leeds faithful.

At the end of the 2003-04 campaign, Leeds had lost their grasp on their Premier League status, but that didn't lessen Smith's standing. After the final game of the season at home to Charlton Athletic, he was carried off the pitch by a number of supporters.

Yet, within three weeks, Smith would forever be known as a traitor among those that had previously worshipped his every action, just like Joe Jordan, Gordon McQueen, Eric Cantona and Rio Ferdinand before him.

It was 11 years ago today that Smith did something that he had famously vowed never to do - sign for Man United in a deal worth £7m, with youngster Danny Pugh moving in the opposite direction.

Speaking at his unveiling, the 23-year-old said: "Not a lot of people would have been brave enough to make this step. It was a difficult decision because crossing the Pennines always causes a lot of hostility but from a personal point of view Manchester United can offer me everything I want.

"I'm very excited. It's a massive club with a great history. It's a new challenge. I'll be playing with world-class players week in week out and I can only improve."

Meanwhile, United boss Sir Alex Ferguson added: "I've never been more impressed with a young player. His desire to play for United is fantastic. Certain young people come along with a special determination and after speaking to him I expect that from Alan Smith."

More recently in an interview with FourFourTwo, Smith, now of Notts County, was asked about that interview all those years ago, to which he replied: "I did say that. I've also learned to never say never in football.

"When I said it I was young and naive and never thought that a) Man United would ever want me and b) Leeds would ever sell me. Look how silly I was."

While Smith started brightly at Old Trafford - scoring a winning goal against Norwich City and a last-minute equaliser away at Blackburn Rovers, injuries started to take hold as the season advanced.

But, it was in February 2006 that Smith, who by then had been converted into a midfielder by Ferguson, suffered a terrible leg break against Liverpool, which all but put an end to his United career, with his eventual departure being confirmed in 2007.

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Teddy Sheringham of Tottenham Hotspur in action during the FA Barclaycard Premiership match between Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United played at White Hart Lane in London, England on September 15, 2002
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Tables
TeamPWDLFAGDPTS
1Tottenham HotspurSpurs96212191220
2Liverpool96212116520
3Chelsea953122101218
4Leicester CityLeicester96031812618
5Southampton95221713417
6Everton95131916316
7Aston Villa85031911815
8West Ham UnitedWest Ham94231510514
9Wolverhampton WanderersWolves9423910-114
10Manchester UnitedMan Utd84131314-113
11Crystal Palace94141213-113
12Arsenal9414910-113
13Manchester CityMan City83321011-112
14Leeds UnitedLeeds93241417-311
15Newcastle UnitedNewcastle93241015-511
16Brighton & Hove AlbionBrighton92341315-29
17Burnley8125412-85
18Fulham9117918-94
19West Bromwich AlbionWest Brom9036618-123
20Sheffield UnitedSheff Utd9018415-111

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