The centre-forward counts Chris Wilder among his longest-standing admirers, with United’s manager thought to have considered an official approach earlier this year.
Although that did not materialise, Watkins’ form in the Championship - he has scored 12 goals in his last 20 appearances - is expected to lead to a flurry of renewed interest early in January.
Despite suggestions that bolstering United’s attack is not Wilder’s immediate priority, he could be persuaded to test the Londoners’ resolve to retain Watkins’ services should another top-flight club enter the bidding. Depending, of course, upon the budget which has been placed at his disposal.
United’s hierarchy, including owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and director Jan van Winckel, recently held talks with Wilder in Dubai to help plot their future strategy. A photograph of those discussions inadvertently revealed midfield and defence are areas where coaching staff hope to make reinforcements, as they attempt to maintain their squad’s strong start to the new campaign.
United, who are unbeaten in seven after drawing at Wolverhampton Wanderers last weekend, began preparing for tomorrow’s meeting with Newcastle in seventh place having only been promoted last season.
Sander Berge, of KRC Genk, is known to have been suggested as a potential signing following United’s climb out of the second tier. The 21-year-old elected to remain in Belgium at the time, with reports later claiming he feared Wilder’s team would find themselves battling against relegation rather than competing towards the top of the division. Berge could yet re-emerge as a potential target but Liverpool are now thought to be tracking his progress with Hannes Wolf’s side.
Watkins, aged 23, started his career with Exeter City and despite initially being deployed in midfield or on the wing, has been converted into a striker by Thomas Frank, Wilder’s counterpart at Griffin Park.
John Egan and Jack O’Connell both represented Brentford before being sold to United.