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Exclusive: Heaton reveals the moment he knew he had to quit Man United

Date Posted,April 21, 2017

Tom Heaton was watching Manchester United win the Champions League when he realised he would have to quit Old Trafford to make the grade.

But the Burnley keeper has no regrets, with him now captaining Sean Dyche’s Clarets in the Premier League.

Heaton has also got a couple of England caps to hang on the wall of his Cheshire home.

And even Sir Alex Ferguson has forgiven him for walking out of United on a free – despite giving Heaton a rollocking he still remembers with a grin and a grimace.

“I had a great experience at United – right up to the point when I decided to leave,” said the 30-year-old.

“Sir Alex called me into his office because he had a new contract offer for me, but I had just turned 24 and I knew it was time for me to start playing some games.

Heaton makes a save at Old Trafford (Photo: REUTERS)

“So I turned him down – and the only way to describe Sir Alex’s reaction is to say that I got short shrift!

“Put it this way, I couldn’t get out of his office fast enough.

“I understood his anger. I had been at United for 13 years and they had put a lot of effort into me. Now I was walking away on a free. But it was the right decision. Watching from the sidelines wasn’t for me.

“I’d known for about two years that I was going to leave. In fact, it was when I watched United beat Chelsea in the 2008 Champions League final in Moscow that it really hit home.

Heaton during his time at United (Photo: Getty Images)

“I was at the celebration, but I just didn’t feel part of it. I wouldn’t say I felt like a fraud, but I knew that night the time was coming for me to move on.

“To be fair, Sir Alex called me back in three or four weeks later and told me he respected my decision.

“He said he would always be there if I needed him and wished me well.

“I still see him when he comes to Burnley to see the manager and when I played for England he sent me a nice message. That shows you the kind of man he is.”

Heaton moved first to Cardiff and then to Bristol City after leaving United, before arriving at Burnley three years ago.

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