Following in Ritchie’s footsteps: Marnick Vermijl's exclusive column

Marnick Vermijl
Marnick Vermijl

I am enjoying my time here at Preston and hopefully our good form recently can continue in the games to come.

It is Bolton next at Deepdale, and we will be looking to get our home form going.

Preston are the third club I have played for in England, with me starting out at Manchester United and then going to Sheffield Wednesday – the club I’m on loan here from.

I was 17 and playing for Standard Liege in Belgium when the chance came along to come to England.

Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, who was in charge of the reserves at Manchester United, watched me in a tournament in Holland which Liege were playing in.

He asked me to come over to Manchester on trial so that they could have a closer look at what I could do.

It was an opportunity which I was not going to turn down and after a week on trial there, a contract was sorted.

As a youngster, I supported United so obviously it was a dream move for me.

Some people at home were saying I was too young to move and that if I stayed in Belgium, I would be playing first-team football straight away.

But when United come along, it is not an opportunity which you turn down.

If you did, I think you would spend much of your career thinking about what could have happened.

So I went from watching United on television in the Champions League to sitting next to those same players having breakfast at Carrington.

When I came over, I had a week in a hotel and then Ritchie de Laet invited me to stay at his house while I settled in and found a place of my own.

Ritchie is from Belgium and was the first Belgian player to play for Preston when he came on loan a few years ago – I’m only the second!

Being in a new country at a young age helped me mature very quickly, I didn’t have mum and dad to turn to if anything went wrong.

It was really good for me and to be honest, I never felt homesick.

I went straight into the reserves at United and was in a group which included Joshua King, Scott Wooton, Robbie Brady, Revel Morrison and Paul Pogba.

You see then what talent Pogba had even at that age and it was a shame that United eventually let him go.

He was a year or so younger than me and some of the others but you could tell Pogba would go places. I made my first-team debut for United against Newcastle in the League Cup when Sir Alex Ferguson was in charge.

Later that season I signed a new two-year contract but then a couple of weeks later, Sir Alex announced he was retiring. David Moyes came in and soon after that, I went on loan to NEC Nijmegen in Holland for a season.

I played nearly 30 games which was the aim – I needed as many matches as I could at a good level.

Last season, I came back to United and then joined Sheffield Wednesday in February.

I suppose moving clubs does present its challenges. You have to move house and into a new area, which means my girlfriend has to find a new job.

But that is a choice you make and it has been good to come here to Preston.

The mood is good within the squad and the last few results have given us plenty of confidence.

Last week, we spent a few days away together preparing for the Charlton and Brighton games.

It was a good break and good to get away from the training ground.

Staying in the south meant we weren’t travelling too much.

Had we come back here after Charlton and then gone to Brighton a couple of days later, it would have meant a lot of time on the coach and train.

We got two good results, with the win against Charlton and then drawing with the league leaders Brighton.

As a group, we always felt that we could get something at Brighton despite where they are in the league.

That proved to be the case and there is no one to be scared of in the Championship.

It is a tight league where a couple of wins can see you jump a number of places in the table.