It is the first managerial departure of an unusually quiet top-flight season on that front and here, the PA news agency looks at the record that drove the Blades to make a move.
Blades not looking sharp
With only five points from their first 14 games, United have the second-lowest points total at this stage of a Premier League season.
The only worse record belongs to the Blades themselves in the 2020-21 campaign, when they finished bottom of the table. Heckingbottom took interim charge for the final 10 games of that season, winning three, after the sacking of Chris Wilder.
They have a point fewer than Derby at this stage of their record-breaking 2007-08 season, when the Rams finished on just 11.
The other four teams to have five points after 14 games include Sunderland in 2005-06 and Aston Villa 10 years later, who finished with 15 and 17 respectively. QPR reached 25 in 2012-13 and Swindon 30 in 42 games in 1993-94, but all of those teams finished bottom of the table.
The Blades’ season to date has included losing 8-0 to Newcastle and 5-0 to Arsenal and Burnley, contributing to a Premier League-high 39 goals conceded – seven more than the Clarets.
Their 11 goals scored also marks the lowest tally, two fewer than Luton, with their goal difference 11 worse than any other team.
The three promoted teams remain in the bottom four, with Luton above Everton after the latter’s 10-point deduction. With a combined 21 points, the trio are six behind the previous low at this stage of the season by Derby and their fellow 2007-08 strugglers Sunderland and Birmingham.
Delayed start to sacking season
December 5 is one of the latest ever dates for the first sacking of a Premier League season.
Excluding the Covid-delayed 2020-21 season, the last season without an earlier managerial change was 2014-15 when Neil Warnock left Crystal Palace on December 27.
Warnock had only replaced Tony Pulis after his shock resignation on the eve of the season, but lasted just 18 games. West Brom sacked Alan Irvine two days later and replaced him with Pulis.
Roy McFarland’s stint as joint manager of Bolton in 1995-96 lasted just 22 games before Colin Todd took sole charge from January 2.
The inaugural Premier League season in 1992-93 saw only one in-season sacking, Chelsea’s Ian Porterfield on February 15 after 29 games.
Slaven Bilic’s departure from West Brom in 2020-21 came on December 16, but after 13 games due to the September start.
December, though, is a high point of the Premier League’s established ‘sacking season’ – Heckingbottom’s departure is the 32nd in December in as many Premier League seasons, which ties with November and trails only the season-ending month of May.