In 2017, Josh Harrop made headlines with a debut goal for Manchester United on the final day of the 2016/17, but that was both his final appearance and his final goal for the club.
Jose Mourinho gave Harrop a chance to shine at Old Trafford, starting him against Crystal Palace. Harrop took that chance, cutting in from the left flank before finding the back of the net for a dream debut goal.
Some wondered what the future would hold for Harrop. Sky Italia’s Gianluca Di Marzio claimed that Bordeaux, Lyon and Rennes all wanted Harrop, but it was Preston who got in there with a deal.
North End paid around £650,000 in compensation to sign Harrop at the end of his contract, handing him a four-year deal just weeks after that debut goal against Palace.
Naturally, Preston fans were excited, believing North End had landed a real talent. After glimpses in his first season, Harrop missed most of last term with a torn ACL. His record this season – eight goals in 26 games in all competitions – shows that there is a real player there with Harrop, and he appears to have taken a big step forward this term.
Now though, he has looked back on his time at United in an interview with the Daily Star. Harrop noted that he was signed by Arsenal early having grown up in a United household, and admitted that he came through the ranks with Marcus Rashford and Preston teammate Ben Pearson.
Harrop loved his debut, but admitted that he had already made up his mind to leave the club despite receiving an offer to extend his contract. The playmaker knew he needed playing time, and chose to join Preston instead.
Harrop warned players in their 20’s at United, claiming that they have to be thinking about leaving if they aren’t playing; the likes of Brandon Williams, James Garner and Mason Greenwood have chances to progress, but Harrop’s warning more applies to those like Kieran O’Hara, Demetri Mitchell and maybe even Aidan Barlow; players often loaned out but have little chance of breaking through at Old Trafford.
Preston have proven to be a fine home for Harrop and Pearson, and rather than sit on the sidelines or be farmed out on loan at United, Harrop thinks players need to be willing to quit United to play elsewhere.
“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.”
“It was a decision you never want to make but my decision was made before I played. 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. 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 added.