Leeds United fans won’t like it, but they might have to get used to seeing another of their own donning Manchester United red.
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips is linked with a summer move to their Premier League rivals where he is believed to be on a shortlist of three targets which also includes England team-mates Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham.
Both sides have an intense hatred for each other, but that hasn’t stopped players from switching between Yorkshire and Lancashire before.
Both Eric Cantona and Rio Ferdinand did it, but the one that hurt the most was the defection of striker Alan Smith in 2004.
Smith, 23 at the time, was a lifelong Leeds fan and came through the academy like Phillips, 26.
“I have never been so impressed with a young player, his desire to play for Manchester United is fantastic,” manager Sir Alex Ferguson said on signing.
“Some young people come with a particular determination, and after talking to him, I expect that from Alan Smith. That desire will take him far.
It wouldn’t have been his first choice after he once said that if there was one team he would never play for it would be Man United, but times were tough for the Yorkshire side at the time.
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Leeds legend Peter Lorimer later revealed it was because Man United could offer the full amount he sold there rather than taking installments like others were offering.
“Other teams that were interested – as with most transfers these days – had part-payment terms over a longer period. But the club were in such dire straits that we needed the money on the spot. field. That’s why he went there.
“Leeds fans didn’t want him to go, but as far as the club is concerned, Alan Smith probably saved us from going into administration or liquidation much earlier than us.”
And years later, Smith opened up about the decision to break hearts like Phillips just might this summer.
“It’s a decision I’ve made solely based on the good of Leeds financially and myself football-wise,” he told the UTD Podcast.
“Leeds fans don’t like me saying this, but the characteristics of the two clubs are very, very similar in terms of beliefs, club history, people involved, styles.
“The fan passion is very, very similar. I think that’s why it made my transition quite easy during that first year.
“And you’re surrounded by world-class players, which also makes it a bit easier.”
For Smith, he quickly endeared himself to the Old Trafford faithful with a banger on his ground debut as Norwich were beaten.
He won the Premier League in his three seasons at the club and Ferguson even revealed that United would not enter the race to sign Michael Ballack in 2005 because they considered converting Smith from a striker to an anchor at the club. midfield where Roy Keane operated.
“Roy sees characteristics in Alan that he saw in himself as a young player, which could help Alan become a very good player in this position,” the manager said.
Smith, however, has been hampered by injuries and battled a broken leg suffered in 2006, which he revealed in 2021 made walking difficult 14 years later. He was eventually sold to Newcastle in 2007.
Leeds are in a different situation than they faced when they sold Smith, but fans are hoping their ‘Yorkshire Pirlo’ won’t follow.
For now, he seems happy. Look at that smile…