Heckingbottom was placed in temporary charge when Chris Wilder who led United from the third to the first tier of English football after being appointed in 2016, parted company with Bramall Lane last month following a series of disagreements behind the scenes.
Despite losing all of his five matches in charge so far, Heckingbottom is known to have impressed United’s hierarchy with the way he has approached the job since stepping into the breach.
Alexander Blessin is known to have been considered for the position having transformed Oostende’s fortunes in Belgium’s Jupiler Pro League this term. But with the Germans eligibility for a work permit in doubt and Slavisa Jokanovic, previously of Watford and Fulham, still to be invited for talks, that has promoted speculation Heckingbottom could emerge as a left-field choice should United owner HRH Prince Abdullah bin Musa’ad bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and his advisor Jan van Winckel decide to look elsewhere.
However, speaking as United prepare to play their first match since being officially relegated from the Premier League, Heckingbottom said: “I know as much as everybody else. I’ll do what I do and as far as I’m concerned I’ll be going back to the under-23’s, which I’m happy to do because I really enjoy it.
“As far as I’m aware, I’m holding the fort until the end of the season and then it’s back to the under-23’s. Would I take it? I’m not backing myself into that corner because I came here to work with the under-23’s and with Chris.”
Heckingbottom enjoyed spells in charge of Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian before returning to South Yorkshire last summer, as Wilder instigated a shake-up of the Steelphalt Academy’s coaching structure. He will take charge of United for the sixth time when Brighton and Hove Albion make the journey north tomorrow.
“My mind is (on) trying to push the players and working with the staff,” Heckingbottom said. “I loved working with the under-23’s. I wanted to make sure that job was there for me. It’s not something I’m chasing.”