ARSENAL boss Arsene Wenger has admitted that he would have rather seen Robin van Persie join big-spending Paris Saint-Germain than Premier League ‘enemies’ Manchester United.

A £24million deal was agreed on Wednesday that saw Arsenal break with precedent to sell one of its prized assets to bitter rival, United for the first time in Wenger’s 16-year reign.

Arsenal’s hand was forced last month when the 29-year-old revealed that he would not sign a new deal at the club, meaning that they had to offload their captain or lose him for free next summer.

But despite sanctioning the sale, Wenger has admitted that he is disappointed that the Dutchman will be wearing the shirt of the club that he has battled against for so many years.

”To strengthen an enemy is the other negative point of this loss,” Wenger told Eurosport’s parent station 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, however, is optimistic that Arsenal can cope with the departure of Van Persie as they prepare for the new Premier League season. ”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,” he added.

”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.’

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