Alan Smith: The Reds and Leeds are very similar
Alan Smith believes Manchester United and Leeds United are more alike than fans of the two great rivals would like to admit.
Smith was the last player to make the transition across the Pennines when transferring from Leeds to the Reds in 2004, making him well placed to compare the two clubs who go head-to-head at Elland Road on Sunday.
Speaking on UTD Podcast in September, the 40-year-old said the similarities between the Lancashire and Yorkshire nemeses made it easier for him to adapt to life at Old Trafford after his much-talked-about move.
“You know the passion that both clubs have got and that’s why I loved playing for both clubs,” Smith told us. “Just because they are very, very similar.
“Leeds fans don’t like me for saying it, but the characteristics of both clubs are very, very similar in terms of the beliefs, the history of the clubs, the people who are involved in it, the styles.
“The passion of the fans is very, very similar. I think that’s why it made my transition quite easy in that first year.
“And you’re surrounded by world-class players, which makes it a little bit easier as well.”
Leeds United v Manchester United at Elland Road – and indeed the reverse clash at Old Trafford – is a fixture many Reds will have ringed in their diaries for 2020/21, with the last Premier League meeting between the sides occurring way back in February 2004.
Smith netted an equaliser for the Whites in a 1-1 draw on that occasion, but he’d soon draw the ire of the Leeds fans – signing for us shortly after his boyhood club’s relegation to the Championship was confirmed.
But did the reaction to his move to M16 bother him at the time? Not really, he admits, with the transfer ultimately aiding all parties – with Smith testing himself at the highest level and Leeds receiving a windfall that helped them during some tough financial times.
“I was a kid when Eric [Cantona] went to Man United and I was probably one of those throwing stones at the team bus when he came!” Smith laughs.
“No, I don’t think I did that, but you understand what I mean. I was there as a player when Rio [Ferdinand] left and I think it was a bit different for me, because I was one of their own players, if you put it in that way.
“I’d been there from 10 years old, so it was big for them that I chose the destination that I did.
“But as I look at it, they should be proud of one of their own young players going on to whatever destination it was, in terms of the calibre you go to.
“That should not be forgotten because it’s a Leeds-Man United rivalry. I think, like you said, it didn’t really bother me because it was a decision I made purely based on the good of Leeds financially and myself footballing wise.”
The Alan Smith episode of UTD Podcast is available to listen to now. This article was first published in September 2020.