Sir Alex Ferguson admits he was 'very sad' to see Alan Smith join Newcastle United.
The striker completed a £6million move to The Magpies last week after failing to become a first-team regular at Manchester United.
Injuries hampered Smith's chances last season and he acknowledged his opportunities would be limited in the coming campaign.
United boss Ferguson revealed the England international was a popular figure at Old Trafford and concedes it was a tough decision to sanction his sale.
"Alan has been a fantastic character in the dressing room and also a very important player for us," said Ferguson in the Daily Express.
"I was very sad to see him go.
"There are few characters as big as him in this country at the moment and it was a very difficult one for us to decide.
"He'll be remembered with great affection by everyone here and I'm sure that's the case with the fans."