Ole Gunnar Solskjaer has "done a tremendous job" since being appointed Manchester United manager, according to Peter Schmeichel.
Solskjaer was handed a three-year contract at Old Trafford in March 2019 after a hugely impressive interim spell in the dugout following the departure of Jose Mourinho.
The Norwegian was unable to build on that platform initially as United slumped to a sixth-place finish last season, but signs of improvement have been shown in 2019-20.
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The Red Devils sat fifth in the Premier League standings when coronavirus stopped play in March, and had also made their way through to the latter stages of the FA Cup and Europa League.
January arrivals Bruno Fernandes and Odion Ighalo seemed to complete the puzzle Solskjaer had been piecing together, with an 11-match unbeaten run raising the levels of expectation among supporters heading into the business end of the season.
With English football's three-month hiatus set to end later this month, Schmeichel has offered an assessment of Solskjaer's first year at the helm, expressing his belief that an old-team mate has already affected significant change.
"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, it has to be said," the ex-United goalkeeper told CNN.
"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.
"All of them are different. They're different in their approach, they're different in the players they like. So he's not really had an opportunity to build what he wants but he has.
"I think he has been helped by circumstances for absolutely sure but 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."
United will need to pick up as many points as possible from their remaining nine fixtures to leapfrog Chelsea in the race for a top-four finish, and Schmeichel is well aware of the importance of Champions League football when it comes to attracting top talent.
He added: "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.
"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."