Josh Harrop on tough decision to leave Manchester United for Preston

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When Josh Harrop rifled home Manchester United’s opener in their final day victory over Crystal Palace, few would have imagined he wouldn’t be at Old Trafford this season.

It was a stunning debut strike from the 21-year-old and one that thrust the versatile forward into the mainstream.

But having come through the ranks with the Red Devils, Harrop knew it was a make or break time for him and he was at the age where he needed to be playing games.

With no assurances about what kind of pitch time he’d be getting from Jose Mourinho, the Stockport lad made the bold move of turning down a new United deal and signing a four-year contract with Preston North End.

“Before my debut the plan was for me to go and get games,” said PNE’s new number 10.

“Then when I scored it made things a lot harder.

“United had already offered me a deal and they offered me another on top of it which made the decision tougher.

“It would have been easy to take it. There was no guarantee I was going to play though.

“I’m too old to be playing reserve team football and need to playing first-team football but there was no promise of that at United.

“I made the big decision and have come here to prove myself.

“I’m confident in my own ability and now need to prove I can do it. I want to get back to the top and hopefully that can be with Preston.”

The goal that Harrop scored saw him announce himself on the scene in style as the 100th player to score a Premier League goal for United.

Not overcome in front of 75,000 fans, the England Under 20 international fired home a fine finish from just inside the box before nearly adding a second.

“I went into the game full of confidence because I’d scored a hat-trick the week before for the Under 23s,” Harrop said.

“The goal I scored was similar to one I scored then.

“I ran onto a pass and found a bit of space. I was just looking to shift it and get a bit of space to get the shot off, I did that and it went in. I was over the moon. It was a surreal moment.

“I remember running back to the halfway line and my body was empty.”

Having had a taste of the Premier League, Harrop is now targeting a return with his new club.

After two consecutive 11th-placed finishes all eyes are on whether PNE can make the leap to the top six under new boss Alex Neil.

“All the lads want to do as well as they possibly can do,” said Harrop. Everyone wants to be a Premier League player.

“The lads did well last year and want to improve on that and get as close to the play-offs and promotion.

“It’s going to be tough but we want to be up there and fighting all season.”