A member of the squads which gained promotion to the top-flight two years ago before finishing ninth in the table last term, McGoldrick scored his eighth goal of the campaign during United’s victory over Brighton and Hove Albion - their first appearance since relegation was mathematically confirmed.
Although the former Republic of Ireland international is not the most demonstrative character inside Bramall Lane’s home dressing room, Heckingbottom said: “David is a big player and a fantastic bloke as well. He’s a quiet leader if you like. He does it by example, how he goes about his work, not only during games but also every single day in training and he’s excellent with everyone else.
“David’s really good at just having a quiet word with some of the younger boys, giving them little bits of encouragement and advice. To be fair, he does that with everybody and you know it’s because he’s bothered.
“The rest of the lads look up to him. So, with this result, I’m delighted for him and I’m delighted for them.”
Heckingbottom and McGoldrick left the pitch with an arm wrapped around each other’s shoulders following the final whistle on Saturday night, with the latter’s effort midway through the first half proving enough to secure only United’s fifth victory in the competition since September.
McGoldrick also spoke in appreciate terms about Heckingbottom’s contribution since being placed in interim charge following Chris Wilder’s departure last month; which will further fuel speculation that the former Barnsley, Leeds and Hibernian chief is emerging as a serious contender for the role on a permanent basis.
Heckingbottom tasked youngster Rhian Brewster with partnering McGoldrick in attack and, although the former Liverpool striker is still yet to score following his £23m move from Liverpool, the 43-year-old said: “It’s tough to get goals at this level, because you are up against some of the best in the business. But he’ll get there, don’t worry about that.”