Sir Alex Ferguson has conceded Tottenham are now in pole position to sign £10million-rated defender Gareth Bale.
The Southampton youngster has become one of the most sought-after players of the transfer window, with a host of Premiership clubs keen to secure his services.
Even though Bale is still only 17 and has made less than 30 senior appearances for the south coast outfit, both United and Tottenham have made concerted efforts to try and prise the Wales international away from St Mary's.
However, Ferguson has admitted United's preference to do a deal with Southampton heavily based on Bale's future progression could count against the Red Devils.
'Southampton said no to us because they are looking for more money, which they have every right to do,' he said.
'The bid we made for Gareth reflected his potential. There were a series of build-ups in it because we have to protect our own club's assets too.
'We offered an initial fee with add-ons depending on how many games he plays, international caps and so on.
'I am not exactly sure what Tottenham have offered more but they have offered more and that has put them in pole position at the moment.'
Ferguson has not given up hope of landing Bale and rejected completely the theory Spurs may have an extra advantage in any bidding way because coach Martin Jol can guarantee the youngster more first-team action.
The United boss points to his record in handing promising players opportunities as evidence to back up United's claims and insisted he is not frightened by the staggering sums now being spent on emerging talent.
'Anyone who guarantees a player first-team football every week is wrong,' he said.
'There are so many examples of young players being given a chance at this club, no-one could dispute the fact they will get opportunities. Maybe the boy himself would need to assess that.
'The fees don't frighten me, although it can sometimes frustrate me a little bit. When you are talking about signing young players with potential, you hope your decision-making and your assessment of the player is correct.
'You hope he won't be there for just one contract but for two or three. Then you get the longevity from that player, as we have done in the past with the likes of Roy Keane, Gary Pallister, Steve Bruce and Denis Irwin.
'That is the only way you can assess it.'