Speaking as his attention turns towards next season, and the dust settles on United’s defeat by Nottingham Forest in the Championship play-off semi-finals, Heckingbottom told The Star that placing too much emphasis on the club’s fitness issues would send out the wrong message to other members of its first team squad.
“What can we do? What can we do about them when they’ve happened? Nothing,” Heckingbottom said. “Managers moan all the time about injuries and I get it. But in another sense I don’t because, for me, it’s disrespectful to the other players that you’ve got.”
Despite attempting to gloss over the issue, Heckingbottom and his coaching staff privately concede that the loss of numerous influential performers has proven an issue in recent months - particularly at the City Ground where, after levelling the aggregate scoreline, United lacked the experienced attacking options to truly go for the jugular when they had Forest on the ropes.
Billy Sharp, Rhian Brewster, Oli McBurnie and David McGoldrick, whose contract is not being renewed, all watched Tuesday’s match from the sidelines. Sharp’s predatory instincts were sorely missed as United went in search of the goal which would have prevented the tie from reaching penalties.
Although Heckingbottom is taking steps to try and prevent his options from being affected in the same way when United return to action, he added: “We can sit and moan about things like that but what does it do? Nothing. Or we can try and deal with it.”