That’s the view of former Scottish international Chris Iwelumo, now a pundit on Talksport.
The Blades had a poor start to the current campaign after relegation last season, and sacked manager Slavisa Jokanović last month.
His replacement, former Barnsley and Leeds chief Heckingbottom, has won all three of his games in charge so far and had the Blades within touching distance of the play-offs, despite the frusttation of three games this month being postponed because of Covid-19.
And Iwelumo, who represented clubs including Burnley, Watford and Wolves during his playing career, said: “With the squad that Sheffield United have got, they were my favourites to go up and I thought the appointment of Slavisa Jokanović was outstanding.
“They appointed him early, he could have got the players drilled and up to speed, but it just never worked out.
“Paul Heckingbottom has been in the background, he knows what it’s all about and he’s got a tune out of this fantastic squad.
“They’ve been underachieving all season but they’ve kept on, picked up some points and are very much in the running.”
United, who have seen games against QPR, Preston and Hull called off so far this month, have not played at Bramall Lane throughout December and return to action on New Year’s Day, at home to Chris Wilder’s Middlesbrough.