Last updated : 29 April 2004 By editor

"It’s easy to make a player crack. United could have kept me on as No 3 keeper and I’d have spent my time in the stand until I left of my own accord," said Barthez.

"But, by granting me a big pay-off, they gave me a lovely present. The truth is they paid me well for my departure because I was straight, honest, professional and respectful.

"I will never thank Alex Ferguson enough for nearly four years spent with him. I know why I left and I know that no one else knows. I respect Ferguson — he has never let me down."

He added: "I have everything here — a big stadium, lots of pressure — and it’s perfect for my 10-month-old son Leni, the first of my priorities. The climate is great and the grandparents not far away."