Forest spent around £140m last summer in a lavish outlay that left no one under any illusions that they would not throw all the resource they had at staying in the Premier League.
They did so in the penultimate game of the season, finishing two places and four points above the bottom three.
United had already clinched promotion from the Championship by then, a year after Forest had edged them out of the play-off semi-final on penalty kicks - such are the fine margins in sport.
But having retaken their place among English football’s elite, Heckingbottom does not have the same riches to throw around as counterpart Steve Cooper and his recruitment team at Forest had 12 months ago.
This week, for instance, United had to bring in a player on a free transfer, Tom Davies, the 25-year-old former Everton midfielder who does at least bring the Premier League experience Heckingbottom is desperate for in his squad.
He also expects to be active in the loan market right up until transfer deadline day on September 1.
But, if anything, United have hit the headlines more for player sales this summer than exciting, big-money acquisitions. Iliman Ndiaye joined Marseille and Sander Berge moved to Burnley a week ago, robbing United of two of the stars who took them to the Premier League.
They have spent a bit in relative terms; £33m combined on Gustavo Hamer from Coventry, Vinicius Souza, Arsenal’s Auston Trusty, Benie Traore and Anis Slimane.
But it is a long way short of the Forest precedent.
“Every club is different, whether that’s on the pitch, how things are done, set-up behind the scenes, the politics of it all,” offered Heckingbottom in mitigation.
“It always amuses me when everyone writes about a football club from the outside without knowing the context.
“I didn’t follow it because we were busy with our own thing, there’ll not be too many things that are the same as they are here.
“The only thing I look at Forest for is the football side of things, how they played last year, what went well for them towards the back end of last season and how they’ve gone about this pre-season.”
So what has Heckingbottom gleaned about a team who opened their Premier League season with a 2-1 defeat at last year’s runners-up Arsenal.
“They seem to have become a little bit more settled,” he said. “With all those players that they signed, that can bring problems.
“You might have a vast amount of resources but it can bring problems. They seemed to settle down with 1) formation, and 2) personnel and that’s been pretty consistent during pre-season.”
One of the players Forest recruited last summer was Morgan Gibbs-White, the Premier League newcomers’ brazen approach underlined by the £44m spent on a player whose stock was raised exponentially by a season-long loan at Bramall Lane.
Heckingbottom, a big fan of Gibbs-White - “I liked how he played, I like his personality – he’s got an edge to him,” - knows he may have to strike lucky in the loan market again if United are to emulate tonight’s opponents and stay in the Premier League.
“If agents have done their homework, they know we’re a good club for their players,” said Heckingbottom of United’s reputation for developing the careers of loan players including their work with Manchester City duo James McAtee and Tommy Doyle last season.
“If clubs have done their homework, they know we’re a good club for their players if it comes to loans.
“Generally we don’t have to speak about it too much. They would know how we work and what the environment is like and why the loans have worked so well. You know what I say, it's not down to us it's down to the player. It's the player that makes it work.
“We can be really clear on what we want and what we expect but the player has to buy in to it and commit. It’s not like we’re magicians, it’s hard work, and the players have to buy into it as well.”
With Davies now on board, Heckingbottom is looking more at players in the attacking positions to increase the club’s goalscoring options.
One player he would love to entice back is Doyle if Man City are willing to let him return to Bramall Lane.
Heckingbottom certainly hopes to get goalscoring out o f attacking midfielder Hamer, who could make his debut at the City Ground following his £15m move from Coventry in the immediate aftermath of Berge’s departure to Burnley.