Quick links

Manchester United

Ex-star makes eye-opening claims over Alan Smith's controversial Leeds-Manchester United transfer deal

Former Leeds ace Stephen McPhail claims Alan Smith's infamous tears were in part because he knew he would be joining Manchester United.

Former Leeds United midfielder Stephen McPhail has revealed that Alan Smith knew he was likely bound for Manchester United, ahead of the club being relegated in 2004.

It is 12 years since the Whites lost their Premier League place, a status they have not since recovered.

McPhail was part of the squad, and has given a fascinating in depth interview to Irish website the42 about the club's demise from the Champions League to the Championship.

Among the many talking points are his comments on Alan Smith, who he claims 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 faced a challenge to win over Manchester United fans, but they took to him thanks to his committed displays.

Injuries curtailed his time at Old Trafford, and he has never been the same player since suffering a broken leg against Liverpool. Now 35, he has spent this last season playing at MK Dons. McPhail, 36, plays for Irish club Shamrock Rovers.

Alan Smith explained his controversial move in 2015. He told the Manchester Evening News: "The Leeds I left wasn't the Leeds I knew. There were people in charge of the club who I didn't like. I went to meetings and saw some bizarre things, with me being touted about to the highest bidder.

"I had the chance to go from a team who'd been relegated to the champions of the country. Arguably the greatest club manager ever wanted me. How could I turn that down?"

Register for MANCHESTER UNITED team updates

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch