Former Man Utd star warns club’s youngsters they might need to leave to improve career

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Josh Harrop scored on his only appearance for Manchester United before joining Preston and he’s now focused on returning to the Premier League

Josh Harrop made a decision he never wanted to make in walking away from Manchester United back in 2017.

But the boyhood Red Devil believes that choice will be fully vindicated if he can make it back to the Premier League with Preston.

Harrop, 24, has scored eight goals this season for North End and Alex Neil’s side are suddenly in the mix for automatic promotion from the Championship.

They have closed the gap on Leeds after four wins in their last six ahead of today’s clash with Millwall.

And that means ex-United attacking midfielder is closing in on a return to the division he has already made a bit of history in.

Stockport lad Harrop made just one appearance for his beloved United when Jose Mourinho picked him for the final game of the 2016-17 season against Crystal Palace.

But he achieved a lifelong dream and went down in history at the club by becoming the 100th player to score for them in the Premier League after coming through the system at Carrington.

“I was signed by United at six or seven,” said Harrop.

“It was always my dream to play for them. I was from a family of United fans.

“I came through with the likes of Ben Pearson, James Wilson, Ashley Fletcher, Andreas Pereira and Marcus Rashford.

“It’s one of them great days when I got to play.

“I got given the opportunity and I took it.

“Jose gave me the chance, he had a word with me a few days before to tell me I would get a chance and it was a nervous few days before.

“But it was a great moment.”

Many young players would have believed that could be their time to springboard into the first team on a regular basis.

But Harrop had already made up his mind that he should move on.

So when a contract offer came that summer to stay at Old Trafford he took the bold decision to decline it.

“It was a decision you never want to make but my decision was made before I played,” he said.

“There was a contract there but the message was it might be better to go look at chances elsewhere.

“It was the fact the opportunities I was going to get were limited.

“I think it helped the decision getting to play the game as I’d done what I always wanted to do. It was not easy though.”

Harrop still keeps in touch with his old friends at Old Trafford including the likes of Rashford and Pereira mostly over video games online.

He believes Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s team will turn it around as there is a “lot of youth” in the side which will come good.

But there is no doubt for him he is on the right path now and feels other players at big clubs struggling to break through shouldn’t take the comfortable step of staying to be on the fringes.

Harrop could have penned a more lucrative contract at Old Trafford but didn’t want to fall into the trap of enjoying the lifestyle more than the game.

“If you’re getting into your 20s not playing then you have to be thinking ‘I need to go play’ if you believe in your talent,” he said.

“You can’t fall into the traps of the lifestyle of a footballer, you have to put all of that to the side and focus on actual football.

“I’m very much driven in the fact I want to be the best player I can be.

“I enjoy the sport and playing first, the lifestyle is just part of the parcel.”

Harrop opted for Preston and enjoyed a solid first season at Deepdale before disaster struck in his second campaign.

The young attacking midfielder suffered an anterior cruciate ligament injury in a 3-2 defeat by West Brom and suddenly he was swept into a dark place.

“The first few months was a mental battle,” he said. “But it’s made me more hungry and given me more desire.”

That desire is now to help fire Preston into the top tier.

This season has not always been easy with time in and out of the team as competition is high for places as they push for promotion.

But if he can get back to the Premier League after his briefest of time there then it will be all worthwhile.

“That’s my main aim,” he added.

“To push to get into the Premier League. I want to be a player young lads look up to. I want to be an inspiration to young players.

“It’s not an easy task to get promoted but we are working really hard.”

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