NYCFC's Jack Harrison happy with decision to quit Man United for U.S.

New York City FC midfielder Jack Harrison says he would recommend other young English players try their luck in the United States, as he did when he left Manchester United's academy six years ago.

"It's not easy to leave your family and friends at 14 but I was very independent and excited to try something new," Harrison told Press Association Sport.

Born in Stoke and raised in Bolton, Harrison took the remarkable step of quitting United's academy at 14 to take up a scholarship at an elite private school in Massachusetts. From there, he progressed to Wake Forest -- one of the top college teams in the U.S. -- before becoming the first player chosen in last year's MLS SuperDraft.

An injury delayed his impact at NYCFC but once fit he took the league by storm, ending the 2016 season as runner-up for both the Rookie of the Year award and goal of the season.

And asked if he would recommend his path to the pros to others, the 20-year-old said "definitely."

"Quite a few friends came out later too and pursued a similar path at colleges. It's hard to break through at home," he said.

"I remember a lot of the kids I played with only thought about playing professionally -- they had a kind of tunnel vision. It was great they knew what they wanted but it was also a bit naive."

At United, Harrison was in the same group as Cameron Borthwick-Jackson and Joe Riley, both now on loan in the English Football League, while James Wilson, also on loan in the Championship, was a year ahead. Marcus Rashford was a year below.

And while Harrison said he's happy in MLS, he would still love to attract some attention from home.

"Everybody dreams of playing in Europe and it would be a dream to one day play in the Premier League," he said. "That's what I aspire to but I've got to get the timing right and for now I'm completely focused on NYCFC."

Harrison also defended the level of play in MLS, and said the league offers some unique challenges.

"It's hard to compare the MLS to other leagues but a lot of people underestimate how tough it is," said Harrison.

"There is a lot of travel, you play in different climates and the standard has gone up exponentially. Just look at the players who have come, guys like Thierry Henry, [Sebastian] Giovinco, [Frank] Lampard.

"And it's not a retirement league at all, there are lots of young, physical players and it's still growing. It's much tougher than lots of people back home think."

Information from Press Association Sport was used in this report.