Arsene Wenger admits Arsenal would rather have sold Robin van Persie to a foreign side, like Paris St Germain, than strengthen Manchester United's ranks.
The Gunners have reluctantly agreed a deal with their Premier League rivals after Van Persie made it clear that he would not be penning an extension to a contract which has only 12 months left to run.
Wenger could have made the Holland international see out that agreement, but would have then seen him walk away for nothing next summer.
Arsenal have decided to cash-in on their talismanic skipper, with a £24million fee believed to be changing hands, but concede that it would have been preferable to have done business with a side outside of the English top-flight.
"To strengthen an enemy is the other negative point of this loss," Wenger told TF1.
"We wanted to avoid it but we couldn't. Honestly, I'd rather sell him abroad, to Paris Saint-Germain for example.
"Manchester United know him and know his qualities. He's really an exceptional player, believe me."
Wenger saw Van Persie lead from the front last season, with his 37 goals helping Arsenal to a third place finish and qualification for the UEFA Champions League.
He is disappointed to see another senior figure heading through the Emirates exits - in what is becoming an all too familiar theme - but is confident the Gunners can meet another 'challenge' head on.
He continued: "Van Persie is a great player so it's always sad to lose such a player. But we must consider the economic reality and the will of the player.
"When you can't succeed in extending the contract of a player that is in its last year, there is no other way but to let him go. It's sad because he played for us for eight years. He's 29 now. He was 21 when he came and it's another bitter pill to swallow.
"A lot has happened before and we survived it all, but this is a real challenge because Van Persie scored 30 (Premier League) goals in a year, almost one per game. It's a tough challenge for our new forwards to replace him."