Transfer Tales: Alan Smith
As Manchester United play Leeds United in our first pre-season friendly, we have decided to focus on Alan Smith as the next subject of our Transfer Tales series.
The Reds meet the Championship side in Norwegian capital Oslo on 12 July, with more details on the fixture available here.
Smith is the last player to move from Elland Road to Old Trafford and it was always going to be a controversial switch, despite the fact the West Yorkshire side had been relegated, in 2004.
Much of the Leeds faithful could never envisage it happening, as the homegrown product had been linked with numerous other clubs.
A dyed-in-the-wool Whites fan and the club's star striker and chief asset had been the subject of relatively little speculation about joining Sir Alex Ferguson's men but as relegation loomed large, rumours started that the Reds boss fancied adding the tenacious England international to his squad.
The blond forward had previously gone on record as saying he could never play for United but Leeds director Peter Lorimer revealed that the cash-strapped club only wanted to do business with the Reds because the other bidders, Everton and Newcastle United, could not provide the reported £7 million fee up front.
“I’d often discussed Alan with my coaching staff and we concluded by saying: ‘He’s a Leeds boy and he would never come here’,” admitted Sir Alex.
“Once Leeds were relegated, it was obvious a player of his ability could never stay there. But then I was told he was willing to join us and that he wasn’t interested in the past. I said: ‘That will do for me’ because it was a brave decision.”
Smith was unapologetic about his apparent U-turn and the furore it sparked among the Leeds fanbase that once adored him.
“You can never say never in football,” he insisted. “Circumstances change and you have to change with them. At some point in your life, you have to go down a different path.”
Smith also later revealed that Sir Alex spoke to Rio Ferdinand about his target and used the defender as a character reference. And, in his UTD Podcast episode, he admitted: "For me, it wasn't even a rivalry anymore. If you're not in the same league, I can't see how it is a rivalry."
Smith netted on his debut, in a Community Shield defeat to Arsenal at Wembley, and marked his first home appearance with a stunning volley against Norwich City at Old Trafford.
In fact, he hit five goals in his first six games for the Reds, including an stoppage-time equaliser at Blackburn Rovers.
However, Wayne Rooney's arrival later that summer, ahead of schedule, and injury problems affected his progress. Converting to a midfielder helped him make his mark and he made 93 appearances in total before joining Newcastle, one of the interested parties three years earlier, in 2007.