Ashley Fletcher to Sheffield United? Who is he, why are Middlesbrough reportedly letting him go and will he be a target?

Ashley Fletcher, the former Manchester United and West Ham striker who is set to leave Middlesbrough in the summer, has once again been linked with a free-transfer move to Sheffield United.

Wednesday, 7th April 2021, 12:15 pm

United will likely be looking to rebuild ahead of a return to the Championship after a disastrous Premier League campaign, and Fletcher on a free may fit the bill if they decide to cash in on one of their current crop of strikers.

What's his background?

Fletcher came through the ranks at Manchester United after joining them from Bolton Wanderers, and worked with current Blades boss Paul Heckingbottom in a loan spell at Barnsley in 2016.

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He moved to West Ham but couldn't get going and was sold a year later to Boro, for around £7m.

He is also an England U20 international, scoring twice in his three appearances.

Why is he leaving?

Middlesbrough forward Ashley Fletcher - Alex Livesey/Getty

Fletcher is out of contract at Boro in the summer and has played only 12 times this season, with Neil Warnock preferring to play Duncan Watmore in the lone striker role.

“They are all fit and on the bench but Duncan Watmore is the one who absolutely works his socks off and that’s got to be a minimum requirement for me, especially when you are playing like that,” said the Boro boss.

“If you can’t do that then you are going to be on the bench whereas Duncan he works his socks off.

“You’ve got to have that in that system. In that system it’s not an easy game to play with one up front.”

What are the chances?

United have six senior strikers on their books and all under contract, so you'd imagine that at least one of them would have to move on if any more forwards were to be brought in.

Looking at United's squad as it stands, there are much more pressing concerns than yet another striker - they are thin in midfield and still haven't replaced Jack O'Connell adequetly - and there is, of course, the complication that United don't have a manager.

But recruitment is likely to not be solely the responsibility of whoever the new manager is going forward, so that doesn't necessarily mean players aren't still being identified in the meantime.