Smith signs for £7m and vows to win over fans

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The Independent Football

Manchester United have completed the controversial £7m transfer of Alan Smith from Leeds United. The 23-year-old England forward passed his medical yesterday afternoon and has signed a five-year contract with the Old Trafford club.

Manchester United have completed the controversial £7m transfer of Alan Smith from Leeds United. The 23-year-old England forward passed his medical yesterday afternoon and has signed a five-year contract with the Old Trafford club.

Smith, who is on standby for England's Euro 2004 campaign, has attracted intense criticism over the move from Leeds fans who have condemned the striker for joining their fiercest rivals.

Leeds receive an immediate £6m from United for Smith, with the balance reflected in the fact that the player has agreed to waive his signing-on fee. The Yorkshire club also confirmed that no agents' fees have been incurred in the deal.

"We are beginning a major programme of rebuilding and restructuring at Leeds and we both believe his immediate future in football lies away from Elland Road," said Gerald Krasner, the Leeds chairman. "We know the feelings he has for our club and supporters and what it means to him to leave the No17 shirt behind. We thank him for his service to Leeds and wish him well in his future career."

Smith said: "I have grown up at Leeds and spent some wonderful years there I would like to thank everyone associated with the club. Now I feel it's the right time to move on and there could be no better club than Manchester United. To be joining one of the best clubs in the world is fantastic and I'm looking forward to the new challenges.

"Not a lot of people would have been brave enough to make this step. I know about the cross-Pennine divide and there is a lot of hostility between the supporters. But I am prepared for what comes with that and I can't wait to get started. I want to prove myself here and win the fans over with my performances."

Smith's open desire to move to Old Trafford has infuriated the Leeds fans, some of whom chaired him from the Elland Road pitch following their final home game of the season against Charlton three weeks ago. However, the United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, said: "I have never been more impressed with a young player, his desire to play for Manchester United is fantastic. Certain young people come along with a special determination, and after speaking to him I expect that from Alan Smith. That desire will take him a long way."

Smith will return for pre-season training in July but will face stiff competition from Ruud van Nistelrooy and Louis Saha.

The striker becomes the 10th player to switch between Leeds and Manchester United. Though he has been vilified by Leeds fans, there are good omens. Joe Jordan and Gordon McQueen played in FA Cup finals for United after being part of Leeds' championship-winning side in the 1970s. Perhaps most notably, Eric Cantona enjoyed five successful years at Old Trafford after leaving Leeds in 1992.

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