Nigel Clough believes Saturday's Sky Bet League One clash with promotion rivals Preston North End will be a good yardstick for the Blades.
Last season's beaten play-off semi-finalists arrive in South Yorkshire in third place in the table and Clough has acknowledged the importance of United's forthcoming league matches against their main rivals for promotion to the Championship.
Looking ahead to the weekend's clash at Bramall Lane, the Gaffer commented: "Preston have improved year on year for the last two or three seasons now.
"They have just tweaked minor elements along the way and now find themselves in the best position they have been for a while to challenge for automatic promotion.
"I am sure they will be there or thereabouts for the top two and certainly in the top six.
"We are probably battling with them for promotion and also players because we have been told when we have enquired for certain individuals that Preston have too.
"Preston are a very strong side, we weren't surprised they beat Norwich in FA Cup at Deepdale."
Reflecting on Monday's FA Cup draw which paired the Blades with the Lilywhites in the fourth round, Clough added:
"The cup draw hasn't made our January any easier, the very least reward we wanted for the win at QPR was a home draw.
"The timing isn't ideal sandwiched in between the ties against Spurs, but the league game against Preston and then the ones against MK Dons and Swindon are arguably our biggest games of the month."