Placed in interim charge following Chris Wilder’s departure in March, Heckingbottom’s involvement in planning United’s response to what has been a wretched season in South Yorkshire, combined with his previous managerial experience, has led to suggestions he could be set for a new strategic role as part of a behind the scenes shake-up.
But, speaking ahead of tomorrow’s game against Everton, the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief said: “Stepping up, when I did that, my responsibility was to the players and it still is. If my job title changes and my responsibilities change, then I’ll change. If they don’t, then I won’t.
“People get employed by football clubs for all sorts of different reasons, to do all sorts of different jobs and each and every one of them is important. They all fit together, and when that happens, then you have more of a chance of success.”
Only three weeks ago, Heckingbottom was thought to be the leading contender to replace Wilder after Alexander Blessin, the previous favourite, was informed he is unlikely to qualify for a work permit having only been appointed by Oostende at the beginning of the season. Chief executive Steve Bettis’ decision to confirm he featured on a five man shortlist - now understood to be six following last weekend’s approach to Slavisa Jokanovic - will have been cleared by the board and, as such, was interpreted as a means of gauging opinion among supporters.
However, with the mental and physical scars of the past eight months continuing to disfigure United’s performances, it was noticeable how many times Heckingbottom spoke about his post at the Steelphalt Academy during yesterday’s media briefing.
“Everyone - players, coaches, staff, directors - we all need to be working for one thing and that’s not ourselves, it’s the benefit of the football club,” he said.