Chris Wilder is back in football management. The former Sheffield United boss has taken over at Middlesbrough from another ex-Blade, Neil Warnock.
Wilder will be looking to get Boro going just like he did with the Blades over four and a half seasons. As we all know, Wilder took United from League One to the Premier League. More than that, he brought the club together as one, before lockdown and other off-field issues led to his demise.
Naturally, eyes will be turning to the clash with Boro at Bramall Lane in the New Year. But while that meeting will be one to look forward to, there’s also been plenty of talk about players Wilder might look to take to Teesside.
One of those players could be George Baldock. The right-back was a huge player for Wilder in his 3-5-2 formation. Indeed, both Baldock and Enda Stevens on the other flank were more or less ever-presents for Wilder.
But while Wilder might want Baldock, Middlesbrough have a player on their hands who will interest United. That man is current Nottingham Forest loan star, Djed Spence.
Spence, 21, has emerged as one of the best right-backs in the league in recent weeks. Since Steve Cooper took over at Forest, Spence has been in exceptional form.
Indeed, Forest fans are desperate for him to stay beyond his loan. Middlesbrough can recall him in January, and Reds fans have already been demanding they make a permanent bid before Wilder sees him.
If Wilder is to employ the 3-5-2 he did at Bramall Lane, then Spence certainly fits the profile of player he needs for that system.
But could United look to shuffle their own pack by offering up Baldock in return for Spence?
After the miserable loss at Blackburn, calls for the Blades squad to be overhauled in January and into the summer are gathering pace. A number of this squad have reached their peak and are now on the decline. Baldock, then, could be classed as being one of them.
Wilder is a big fan of Baldock. Speaking back in 2020, the then United gaffer praised the full-back’s attitude to the game.
“You have to have the focus he’s got to be doing what he’s doing in his career. He’s got to play well regardless of whether his brother is up front or his mum is up front. He’d probably kick her during a game as well,” Wilder said of Baldock facing his brother, Sam.
Still just 28, Baldock has until 2024 to run on his Blades contract. Crucially, that makes him an asset. And after more than 150 games for United, the time might be right to move him on.
Middlesbrough starlet Spence would be the ideal replacement. Of course, Chris Wilder will likely want to take a look at the Boro man. But should he fancy a reunion with Baldock, then Spence is the man United should ask for as part of any deal.