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Last Updated: Sunday, 11 March 2007, 12:28 GMT
The Larsson kiss goodnight

By Mandeep Sanghera

The only way players usually leave Manchester United is if they have upset manager Sir Alex Ferguson or you are deemed surplus to requirements.

Henrik Larsson
Larsson has made a telling contribution to Man Utd's push for honours

Henrik Larsson has left Old Trafford after his three-month loan stint and his exit is an altogether different scenario as he departs by his own accord.

The temptation to stay on at United as they challenge for another historic Treble must have reverberated through his soul but, a man of his word, he has resisted.

The agreement was to return to Helsingborg after 12 March and Larsson is sticking to it.

"I have signed a contract with Helsingborg and it's a contract I intend to honour," he said.

"Their season starts in the first week in April and I will be there. It has been a wonderful experience at a great club. It is something I'll always be grateful for."

606: DEBATE

Ferguson did not want the 35-year-old Swede to leave but for him not to do so would be in conflict with a career and reputation the striker has based on loyalty and honesty.

Such commodities are considered rare in the modern age of football but old-fashioned honour marks out Larsson and his off-pitch reputation would not be as impressive if he was still not one of Europe's most accomplished forwards.

The clamour for him to stay began as soon as his first game for Manchester United was over - when he scored a goal on his debut in the 2-1 win over Aston Villa in the FA Cup.

Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson
I would do anything to keep him

Man Utd boss Sir Alex Ferguson

Since then he has added two further goals in 11 appearances, including the header against Lille in the Champions League that helped take United into the last eight.

But, while his goal tally is respectable, the statistics hide his guile and artistry off the ball, along with his professionalism and attitude in showing the way to United's younger stars.

It was much the same at Barcelona last season when his influence was telling in helping them win the Champions League and take Spain's La Liga crown.

He was brought on as a substitute against Arsenal in the Champions League final and changed the game - setting up both goals as Barcelona came back from a goal down to beat their 10-man rivals 2-1.

It seems ironic that he is leaving when United need him most, with fellow forwards Louis Saha and Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer set to be sidelined until the end of March because of injury.

Wayne Rooney is struggling for form and Alan Smith has yet to show he has fully recovered from a broken ankle well enough to make an impact.

Ferguson will be hoping his players will have learned enough from Larsson to see them through as the going gets even tougher with the season reaching a climax.

"He has been a credit to himself. His dedication to his job has never changed and it has been a real joy to have him," stated Ferguson.

"We would love him to stay but, obviously, he has made his promise to his family and Helsingborg and I think we should respect that - but I would have done anything to keep him."



SEE ALSO
Middlesbrough 2-2 Man Utd
10 Mar 07 |  FA Cup
Larsson snubs Man Utd extension
20 Feb 07 |  Man Utd
Ferguson plays down Larsson talk
12 Jan 07 |  Man Utd
Larsson lured by last big chance
20 Dec 06 |  Man Utd
Larsson begins Man Utd training
18 Dec 06 |  Man Utd
Man Utd capture Larsson on loan
01 Dec 06 |  Man Utd
Barcelona 2-1 Arsenal
17 May 06 |  Europe


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