It hasn’t always been easy. Not least because, since handing him the reins two months ago, they have produced some pretty handy performances and even tastier results.
But as United’s recent history teaches us, success on the pitch can mask problems behind the scenes. After all, when Chris Wilder’s side was busy tearing the Premier League a new one, no one was talking about their two warring owners or looming High Court battle.
Events inside the Weston Homes Community Stadium, where one goal from Billy Sharp and a mistake by Callum Morton put Peterborough to the sword, should help Heckingbottom build an even more compelling case.
The victory, their fifth in seven league games under the 44-year-old, lifted United to 11th in the table and to within six points of the play-offs. But it came at a price. Already desperately short of centre-halves, Heckingbottom’s attacking options have now been reduced too. Rhian Brewster and Iliman Ndiate both succumbed to injury, although it later emerged the latter was only suffering from cramp.
“It’s a great day for us and we’re delighted,” said Sharp, now the most prolific marksman in the division since it was rebranded as the Championship. “We’ve got games in hand and confidence.”
Brewster’s latest set-back came midway through a first-half played at a ridiculous pace but where the only moments of real quality were spawned by Oliver Norwood’s majestic right foot. Minutes after his team mate had limped out of the contest, the former Northern Ireland international produced a pass so perfectly weighted that it simply demanded to be converted after slicing through Peterborough’s defence.
Had Brewster been the recipient, it probably would have been. But the centre-forward, who had scored three times in six outings en route to Cambridgeshire, was already in the dressing room receiving treatment on his damaged hamstring. Jayden Bogle is no mean finisher himself. Just not mean enough to guide the ball past Steven Benda, who frustrated the defender by producing a smart reaction save.
With new signing Adam Davies watching from the bench, Wes Foderingham reminded the former Stoke City goalkeeper he will be a difficult man to shift by smothering at the feet of Jonson Clarke-Harris as Peterborough surged forward on the counter attack.
John Egan should earlier have given United the lead their grip on the contest deserved when he met another Norwood pass at the far post. Instead, predictably, that responsibility fell to Sharp at the beginning of the second period - the visitors’ captain scoring for the 258th time in his career from close range.
Ndiaye’s departure, which with Morgan Gibbs-White still unavailable for selection could leave United short of creativity, curtailed their celebrations. But only briefly with Chris Basham, aided and abetted by Morton, ending Peterborough’s hopes of salvaging something from the fixture during the closing stages - his header nestling in the back of the net after ricocheting off the youngster, on loan from West Bromwich Albion.
“Breaking them down was going to be key,” Sharp said. “We did that. We came through.”