MIDDLESBROUGH want Mark Schwarzer to commit his future to the club amid mounting speculation that he is bound for Manchester United in the summer.

The Australian international, who has kept two clean sheets so far this season, has built up a reputation as one of the finest goalkeepers in the Premiership during his seven years on Teesside.

Schwarzer is out of contract in the summer and free to move for nothing on a Bosman transfer when his deal expires.

In January, providing he has not agreed fresh terms with Middlesbrough, he will be allowed to negotiate with possible employers and United are in pole position.

But Boro chief executive Keith Lamb last night insisted the club are continuing to do everything possible to keep him.

"I have had lengthy discussions with Mark's nominated representative and those talks are ongoing.," said Lamb.

"We hope we can agree personal terms in the very near future."

Schwazrer recently claimed he has not held discussions with the club for a number of months.

League champions Arsenal are also known to have cast an admiring eye over the Socceroo star but it is United who are now understood to be leading the chase.

He was an option before Sir Alex Ferguson swooped for American Tim Howard last year.

But a dip in Howard's form, which has cost him his place in the United starting line-up, has led to Ferguson exploring other possibilities with Schwarzer high on the wanted list.

Schwarzer has been first choice at Boro since he moved from Bradford City in 1997.

Meanwhile, Boro's Italian striker Massimo Maccarone has not suffered any serious damage to his knee, exploratory surgery has revealed.

The former Empoli man is currently on loan at Parma in Serie A and is expected to make a return for the Italians in a few weeks.

* Manchester City striker Robbie Fowler has earmarked next week's Carling Cup clash with Arsenal to return to action. But he could be required earlier by manager Kevin Keegan.

The 29-year-old was ordered to undergo a rigorous personal fitness schedule after struggling for form at the start of this season.

Fitness coach Juan Carlos Osario has been taking Fowler on three gruelling sessions each day and the £6m signing is close to competing for a place in the starting line-up.

His next appearance will also trigger a £500,000 pay-out to former club Leeds - who receive instalments every 15 games - as Fowler reaches 60 appearances for City.

''There have been no problems with Robbie and the Carling Cup will be the perfect game to bring him back. But we will have to wait and see,'' Keegan said.

Fowler could be needed earlier if Keegan's squad have picked up injuries over the last week, and he is on standby for tomorrow's Premiership clash against Chelsea.

''If necessary he could make the bench for the game against Chelsea. It is something I will look at when everyone returns from international duty,'' added Keegan.

''If we get one more problem anywhere either in training or with any of the ones who are away then I would look to see if we need Robbie in there.

"It will be a very young bench anyway."

Read more about Middlesbrough here.