Manchester City wanted to sign Harry Maguire from Leicester, but could not afford him, according to City boss Pep Guardiola.
The 26-year-old England centre-back is closing in on a move to United for £80m – a world record fee for a defender.
Speaking after City beat Liverpool on penalties in the Community Shield, Guardiola said: “He’s an excellent, top-class player.
“We were interested but could not afford it.”
He added: “United could afford it. He had an incredible World Cup. He’s strong in the air, good with the ball and builds it up, he’s so fast. He’s young. Congratulations to United.”
Guardiola does not expect another two-way Premier League title battle this season.
Last season City won their second consecutive title – on 98 points – with Liverpool on 97, a record for a second-placed team. Third-placed Chelsea were 27 points below the Reds.
“There will be many contenders. Manchester United – with Maguire and the other players they brought will be very good,” said Guardiola.
“And Arsenal, Chelsea and Tottenham too. There are many contenders. But I think Liverpool is champions of Europe and showed they are a top-class team.
“The difference is one point ahead and one penalty ahead. It is minimal. It is good to face them to see how well prepared we have to be until the end to try to win the title.”
‘I liked the game, I don’t like the result’
City led the Community Shield through Raheem Sterling’s opener, but Joel Matip equalised for Liverpool, who ended the stronger team.
Virgil van Dijk saw a shot hit the bar and bounce off the line, while Mohamed Salah missed some big chances to win the game.
“We had a good first half but afterward we did not control the long balls and the second balls,” Guardiola said.
“They won more. There were a lot of chances for both sides. Liverpool were better at the end but in the penalty shootout we scored more.”
Klopp was “completely happy” with his side’s performance, if not the result.
“If you want to prepare to play Man City, you have to play Man City in a pre-season friendly,” he said. “No team plays like them. You saw that in periods in the first half. We struggled against them at times positionally but that’s normal.
“Second half was really good, the best way you can play against City. The number of chances we had is a very good sign. I liked the game, I don’t like the result. “