Gabriel Heinze regrets manner of departure from Manchester United

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Gabriel Heinze regrets the acrimonious manner of his departure from Manchester United.

The Argentina full-back spent three years at Old Trafford, during which time he won a Premier League and became a crowd favourite amongst the Red Devils faithful for his no-nonsense tackling.

However, his time with the club ended in bitterness.

In declaring a desire to leave in 2007, Heinze demanded to join Liverpool, something totally unpalatable to Sir Alex Ferguson.

The pair exchanged angry words before Ferguson eventually got his way.

Heinze joined Real Madrid instead, after which Ferguson revealed the defender had first asked for a transfer within 12 months of his arrival from Paris St Germain.

Now at Marseille, who tackle United in the Champions League tomorrow, the 32-year-old looks back on the period with a shake of the head.

He takes full responsibility for his actions and accepts the situation was not handled particularly well.

"I regret it a lot, especially the last three months," said Heinze.

"I am a strong person and so is Alex Ferguson. I took the decision I did and I regret it, especially for the fans and I hope it has not tarnished me with them."

That Heinze wanted to leave in the first place was a disappointment to United. Trying to quit for Liverpool merely inflamed passions.

"I don't really want to talk about what happened four years ago," he said.

"Maybe some day I will tell the whole story.

"But I knew the risks and was aware of what being at a club like Liverpool would mean."

Heinze has met Ferguson just once since, a brief encounter in Qatar when Argentina met Brazil in a friendly.

"I was really happy to see him," said Heinze.

"When I was at Manchester United, Ferguson impressed me a lot. He gave me a winning culture.

"I had three wonderful years there. It is a great club and it is not so very different now from four years ago.

"It is the same coach. He is the one who sends the message that it is always to win.

"The players may change but the philosophy stays the same."

It is a philosophy Marseille must overcome tomorrow, although their task has been made easier by the absence of seven senior United players, including Heinze's former team-mates, Ryan Giggs and Rio Ferdinand.

Although on a personal level, Heinze might have enjoyed seeing his old friends again, professionally, he accepts it is a good thing.

"Ryan and Rio are two big stars," he said.

"Everyone is aware of their quality and although they have other players who can come into the same system, we have to be happy they are not here."

The injury situation means Ferguson's team virtually picks itself.

Heinze recognises the strength that remains. However, he is refusing to adopt a defeatist attitude.

"We are all men, and we all have two arms and two legs no matter what big names are in their team," said Heinze.

"We are fully motivated and we will leave the pitch having given everything. Hopefully, tomorrow will be our night."