Smith switched allegiances in 2004 when boyhood club Leeds were relegated to the Championship and Man Utd came calling but he is adamant the friction between the clubs had ended
Alan Smith has claimed Leeds vs Manchester United “wasn’t a rivalry” by the time he made the controversial switch to Old Trafford.
The former England striker completed a transfer from his boyhood club to Man Utd for £7million in 2004 after Leeds had been relegated.
Leeds and United had long been considered a fierce rivalry, with its origins dating as far back as the War of the Roses between the two counties – Yorkshire and Lancashire – in the 15th century.
Just a few years before Smith’s transfer Leeds had been competing at the top end of the table with United, but he insists the rivalry had died out by the time he moved on.
“For me, it wasn’t even a rivalry anymore,” Smith told the Official Utd podcast. “If you aren’t in the same league, I don’t see how it can be.
“I would have been doing myself a disservice if I took the easy option and didn’t sign for — arguably at that time — the biggest club in the world.”
Smith – now 39 – had come through the club’s academy ranks before scoring on his debut away at Liverpool aged 18.
He was well-revered by the Leeds faithful, even winning successive Supporters Player of the Year awards for the first time in the club’s history.
But after leaving Leeds following their drop down into the Championship, the forward was branded as ‘Judas’ by fans who felt he had betrayed them to join their fierce rivals.
It was later revealed United were Smith’s only option as they were the only club able to pay his transfer fee in one lump sum, which Leeds were desperate for to ease their financial problems.
Smith even waived a fee he was due personally from the transfer in a bid to help out the club.
He went on to be a regular performer at United until he suffered career-threatening injuries in a freak on-field incident at the same Anfield ground where his career kickstarted.
His efforts to block a Liverpool shot at goal caused him to dislocate his ankle and break both bones in his lower leg.
While Smith did return to the field after a lengthy layoff, he admits the injuries took their toll as he eventually moved to Newcastle before slipping down the leagues with MK Dons and Notts County.