Brownhill, who only turns 18 today, has broken into the first team under Simon Grayson this season, and has already contributed two goals from midfield this season.
After being released as a 15-year-old by United, Brownhill signed with Preston and his ascent through the youth team to first team prominence has been rapid, even surprising Grayson after he scored on his debut against Gillingham.
"I'll be honest - I didn't know a great deal about the lad. We had him with us a couple of times last year and thought he was OK, but did we seriously think he was going to be in the first team within the first four months of the season? No, but there are opportunities for any player. Josh is a good example for any of our academy players. If they do well and impress, they'll get an opportunity in the first team. I'm not frightened of playing young kids because if they're good enough, they'll play."
His impressive displays for the promotion-chasing Lilywhites have not only attracted interest from other Premier League clubs, but have seen him compared to current Arsenal and Wales star Aaron Ramsey. It's high praise for a player who is being eased into regular first team football, but his flashes of brilliance merit acclaim, despite his inexperience.
United are still in the market for central midfielders despite signing Marouane Fellaini for £27.5m in September. Whilst the addition of Brownhill wouldn't necessarily improve their options immediately, he has great potential and could be a star of the future. Manager David Moyes is no strange to Deepdale and is still highly regarded by Preston fans having led the club to the Division Two title in 2000, and sending Brownhill back to the club on loan for the rest of the season and possibly longer would be best for Brownhill's development.
However, Grayson intends to offer Brownhill a long-term contract to keep in Lancashire for the foreseeable future. With his contract expiring at the end of the season, Brownhill could leave Preston under the controversial Elite Player Performance Plan.
Under the ruling that effectively benefits big clubs, Preston could lose Brownhill for pittance despite being worth much more than the Plan would suggest. The best thing for Brownhill at this stage would be to stay at Deepdale and continue his development, rather than sit on the sidelines at Old Trafford – as he has done before.