Simon Grayson admits that Will Keane’s Preston North End exit came as a bolt out of the blue.
The Lilywhites manager had fully expected to have Keane on the Deepdale books for the rest of the season.
However, he returned to Manchester United last week after asking for a chance to prove himself there.
Keane played for United’s Under-21s against Tottenham on Monday night.
North End moved quickly to replace Keane, bringing in Callum Robinson on loan from Aston Villa this week.
Although clubs always run the risk of recalls when they take a player on loan, this one had not been on the cards.
Grayson told the Evening Post: “All the indications were that Manchester United were happy with how Will was doing with us – he was going to stay here for the rest of the season.
“However, Will saw it as an opportunity, with United being a bit short in the forward department, and maybe wants to give it one last go at making it there.
“We respect that decision and time will tell if it happens for him.
“It was a bit frustrating, as was Jordan Pickford going back to Sunderland.
“However, we are thankful to United and Sunderland for letting us have two very good footballers in the first place.”
Although Keane’s recall has raised eyebrows, there is the possibility of him being included in and around the United squad,
Their youth coach Tommy Martin said: “I think that’s the idea of him coming back from Preston, that hopefully he’ll be involved with the first team more than the Under-21s.”
After being named United’s young player of the year in 2010, Keane made his first-team debut against Blackburn the following season, but has not played for the club since.
The academy graduate missed the 2012-13 season with a knee-ligament injury which he suffered playing for the England Under-19s at Deepdale in May 2012.
North End were the fourth club he had been loaned to, having previously played for Wigan, Queens Park Rangers and Sheffield Wednesday.
A chance to be around United’s squad could come for Keane this weekend when they face Swansea in the FA Cup.
It is fair comment that PNE only started to see Keane’s better form in his final month with the club.
He started all of the matches in December, the first of those seeing him find the net in the 2-0 victory at Burnley.
In recent home games, Grayson used a 4-3-3, with Keane operating to the right of Joe Garner, with Adam Reach on the left.
It is that wider role which new recruit Robinson has the potential to play in.
At the same time Keane was going back to United, Sam Johnstone was making the trip in the opposite direction to join PNE on a 28-day loan.
The two clubs seem to have a decent relationship, with United’s Under-21s coach Warren Joyce a regular watcher of Preston games.
Joyce, a former North End midfielder in the late 1980s and early 1990s, was in the directors’ box at Deepdale on Saturday to watch goalkeeper Johnstone in action against Rotherham.