Ex-Leeds star Harte "never understood" hatred of Rio Ferdinand and Alan Smith

Former Leeds defender Ian Harte has opened up about the stick Alan Smith and Rio Ferdinand got for leaving to Manchester United.

Smith was signed by United for £7million in 2004 when the Lilywhites were relegated while Ferdinand, the club’s captain, departed to the northwest in 2002 for a record-breaking £30milllion. Given the heated rivalry between the club in Yorkshire and United, fans at Elland Road were furious with the moves.

But cult hero Harte, who played 288 times for Leeds before leaving in 2004, says he did not understand the anger. Speaking exclusively to Freebets, the 44-year-old said that the dressing room was fine with the players moving on and that it was the supporters who had a problem. “I never really understood the hatred from some fans. Of course, you have Yorkshire and Lancashire, but Rio was only there for a season. Joined for £18million and then moved to Manchester United for £30m.

“Smithy was there from the academy so that one was harder to take. He came through with us. But in football now there's no loyalty, they went on and won lots of trophies and medals and that's the nature of it now. It's a business at the end of the day so matter who you are, if the right offer comes in the club will sell you.”

Smith, a striker at Leeds, was placed in the holding midfield role at Old Trafford, with Sir Alex Ferguson seeing the youngster, now 41, as Roy Keane’s successor.

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However, his trajectory was hampered in 2006 during a 1–0 defeat by Liverpool at Anfield in the FA Cup. Smith broke his leg and dislocated his ankle as he attempted to block a thunderous free-kick from Liverpool's John Arne Riise. He spent three seasons at United, winning the Premier League in 2006-07, before moving to Newcastle.

Ferdinand, 43, enjoyed greater success at Ferguson’s club, becoming one of the club’s greatest ever centre-backs. Across 12 seasons and 455 appearances, the defender won six titles and two league cup titles, and a Champions League. All the while, he was named in the PFA Premier League Team of the Season on six occasions.

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