Ashley Fletcher has wasted little time reigniting his career following his departure from Manchester United, marking his West Ham United debut with a goal in a friendly draw with FC Slovacko. The Hammers are already deep into their pre-season schedule, with a two-legged Europa League qualifier coming up next week, but are yet to win since reassembling ahead of the new campaign.
After failing to prevail in either of their matches in the US against Seattle Sounders and Carolina Railhawks, Slaven Bilic's team surrendered a two-goal lead in the first of the three matches in Austria before they return to English shores. Mark Noble gave the Premier League side the advantage, before Fletcher met Domingos Quina's cross to double the lead with a neat header.
But two goals from Eldar Civic allowed the Czech side to claim a memorable draw, as West Ham's winless summer continues just a week out from their first competitive game of the campaign. Among the positives for the club, though, was the goal for new signing Fletcher, who after being left out in the cold by United continued where he left off last season, netting a goal on his first appearance.
"It's nice to get off the mark," he told the club's official website. "Ultimately we are a bit disappointed not to get the win tonight, but it's pre-season and we go again tomorrow. It was a great ball from Dom. I've always been told to go and attack the ball and luckily I got my head on the ball and put it in the goal.
"I've loved every minute. Everyone has welcomed me with open arms and I am delighted to be at West Ham. The senior players have helped me to settle in. We have a great group here and hopefully we'll kick on. My aim has to be to break into the team. It's a very talented team and one that is going to be competing at the top of the Premier League, so for me it will be vital to keep showing myself I can do it."
Misfortune denied Fletcher an opportunity to break into the United team last term. Sent on a six-month loan to Barnsley in the January transfer window, the 18-year-old was busy inspiring the Tykes to promotion and the Football League Trophy while Louis van Gaal was blooding youngsters from the club's academy.
Among the 14 players given an opportunities by the Dutchman was Marcus Rashford, who made his debut in the Europa League tie with FC Midtjylland as a late replacement for the injured Anthony Martial. The academy graduate went on to score eight goals in all competitions and force his way into the England squad for the European Championships. Bilic is hopeful Fletcher can replicate Rashford's success in his maiden top-flight campaign.
Though Fletcher was learning his trade in League One, he would have undoubtedly have been called on during United's attacking injury crisis had he been available to Van Gaal – such was his form for the club's Under-21 side. He had previously netted against Manchester City's second string.
Fletcher rejected a new contract at United to move to the Olympic Stadium, and could become the latest player to leave Old Trafford for nothing and go on to to enjoy a stellar career. The Daily Mail understands United are a step closer to parting with £100m in order to bring Paul Pogba back to the club – four years after allowing him to move to Juventus for a nominal fee having failed to agree a fresh deal with demanding agent Mino Raiola.
Amid the speculation over the France international, Fletcher's instant success with West Ham again draws into sharp focus United's transfer business. And with the Glazer family about to finance a world-record transfer, the ownership will be keen that Jose Mourinho bucks the trend of allowing talented academy stars to flourish away from the Theatre of Dreams.