Little brings a smile to Solskjaer's face these days at Manchester United
Little brings a smile to Solskjaer's face these days at Manchester United Image Credit: AP

Dubai: Manchester United coach Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has received the full backing of legendary goalkeeper Peter Schmeichel.

Peter Schmeichel

Peter Schmeichel

In an Instagram Live interview with CNN Sport’s Amanda Davies, Schmeichel said his former teammate at United has “far exceeded” his expectations while making the most of the resources at his disposal at Old Trafford so far.

“I think he’s done a tremendous job. I think he’s far exceeded my expectations on what could be done in a relatively short period of time,” said Danish keeping hero Schmeichel. “Basically, what he’s taken over is six years of too many different directions. He’s taken over players that were with Sir Alex [Ferguson], he’s taken over players that were with [David] Moyes and Louis Van Gaal and then [Jose] Mourinho and all of them are different.

“He’s given opportunities to players who you always thought that they were good, they could do the job. But because of the lack of patience or understanding of the players’ ability.”

Solskjaer, who played for the club for 11 seasons before taking over from Mourinho as caretaker manager in December 2018, went on to win 14 of his first 19 matches in charge before signing a permanent contract in March 2019.

Since then, the Norwegian has endured an up-and-down time at the helm, with inconsistent results in the Premier League presently leaving United fifth in the table while also qualifying for the last 16 of the Europa League before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Peter Schmeichel and Manchester United with the Champions League trophy.
Peter Schmeichel and Manchester United with the Champions League trophy. Image Credit: AFP

Voted the IFFHS World’s Best Goalkeeper in 1992 and 1993, Schmeichel lifted the European Championship trophy with Denmark in 1992 as well as five Premier League titles and the Champions League with United. Regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all-time, the IFFHS also ranked Schmeichel among the top 10 goalkeepers of the 20th century in 2000.

The following year, the Dane won a public poll conducted by news agency Reuters when the majority of the 200,000 participants voted him as the best goalkeeper ever, ahead of even the sport’s legends such as Lev Yashin and Gordon Banks. In 2003, Schmeichel was inducted into the English Football Hall of Fame in recognition of his impact on the English game, and in March 2004, he was named as one of the “125 greatest living footballers”, at the Fifa 100 celebrations.

Solskjaer has had to take all the criticism in his stride for not immediately leading the club back to former heights as experienced during the reign of Ferguson. But somehow, Schmeichel is confident his former teammate will turn things around.

“He’s also brought all these values in. The players now know them. If you don’t share our values, there’s no place for you here. So, you have to live up to his values,” Schmeichel said. “And he’s bringing in his own culture and you can see it and it’s there and it’s brilliant,” the 56-year-old said.

Solskjaer scored the winner in the Champions League final.
Solskjaer scored the winner in the Champions League final. Image Credit: AFP

Schmeichel and Solskjaer were Manchester teammates for three seasons between 1996 and 1999. And besides the combined 11 Premier League titles between the two, both were part of that historic 1999 treble-winning season, which culminated in the iconic Champions League triumph in Barcelona.

Naturally, Schmeichel can see an encore for United for the rest of the season. “Getting into the Champions League, that is a massive leap towards [winning the Premier League in the future]. Not getting into the Champions League is not a disaster because it’s another year of development and I don’t think there’s anything wrong in taking one step back to take two steps forward,” he said.

“But if we could manage to get into the Champions League, that would mean that the up-and-coming transfer windows will have a different feel to it because the best players in the world want to compete in the Champions League.”