You grow up as a Manchester United fan and then are given the chance to sign for them...
That wasn’t a dream, but a reality for North End full back Marnick Vermijl. In 2010, aged 18, he left Standard Liege to join the European giants where he would learn his trade amidst some of the best players in the world.
Looking back to that time, the Peer-born defender admitted that it was a great, character-building experience.
“You see the club, the infrastructure and everything and training with the best players at that time maybe in the world, it is a great experience,” he told The One And Only. “Down there you learn a lot just by watching the other pros; how they do things and live their life – how professional they are in everything that they do. As a young player it’s really good to grow up in that environment.
“The first day that I came there I went up to the canteen to have my breakfast and the first three people who got in were Sir Alex Ferguson, Paul Scholes and Ryan Giggs - the three people who I looked up to the most.
“At that point it was ‘am I really here?’, because I supported United when I was young. So to be there at that time, seeing them, it was like I didn’t know what to say. But then they came over straight away and it was normal, as if you were talking to your friends, so in the beginning you think ‘oh wow, this is unbelievable,’ but then a couple of days later you are used to it already.”
Marnick’s permanent move to Deepdale in the summer, following a year on loan from this afternoon’s opponents, was something he admits he had waited the whole summer for and he is delighted now to be settled back in the north west and is looking to push on once again in 2017.
“I’m just happy that I’m here permanently now so that I can get my head around it and focus on this club and doing my best for the team and for myself. I do not have to think about other stuff and just keep trying to continue what we are doing here and get as many as results as we can get and then get up the table as quickly as we can.
“During my loan spell [last season] I wasn’t really thinking about Sheffield anymore when I was here.
“But when the season had finished, you get into that thing again when you don’t really know what’s going on, ‘do you have to go back, are you getting a permanent move, do they still want you back?’
“You don’t know what you’re going to get and that’s the most difficult thing about it.
“Now I’ve signed here for three years so I can just focus on one job and that makes it a lot easier.
“If I had gone back to Sheffield I didn’t even have a house over there anymore. So I was travelling up and down or staying in a hotel again, so I didn’t have that stability, which you usually have and I’m just happy to have that now here at PNE.
“My mindset was on Preston North End for I don’t know how long. It was a difficult process to get it all sorted, but in the end we got there and I’m very happy to be here now.
“It was much better for my family as well. I know everyone down here from my time at United. I know Manchester and the town really well, so that makes things a lot easier for me and my girlfriend and for everyone, so it’s a lot better down here.
“It’s a lot easier and I’m back in my normal routine – what we are used to and for my girlfriend as well. The amount of people she knows in Manchester, I don’t know how much more than in Sheffield and in Sheffield she was basically on her own, because I was only there for half a season. So it’s difficult to get to know people and we both enjoy it being back here.”
You can read plenty more from Marnick, plus features with fellow former Owl Chris Kirkland, Ben Pearson, Jordan Hugill, Chris Maxwell and Tom Clarke.
There’s also all our regular features and plenty on our opponents, who we are playing for the second time in a month, in the 100-page edition of The One And Only. The programme will be on sale from Friday afternoon from the Sir Tom Finney Stand ticket office or from sellers inside and outside the ground on matchday.