Onana, 27, completed a £44million move to Old Trafford last summer and had sizeable shoes to fill replacing David de Gea, who won eight trophies in Manchester and was named the club’s player of the year on four occasions across his 12-year stay.
Joining from Inter Milan, Onana arrived with big expectations at United after conceding just 10 goals to help steer the Serie A giants to the 2022/23 Champions League final – where they were ultimately defeated by Manchester City.
But the Cameroon international has endured a less than convincing start to his spell in the north-west, making a series of glaring errors with the Red Devils languishing down in seventh place in the Premier League and eliminated from Europe’s premier competition at the group stage.
However, Schmeichel believes Onana’s issues between the sticks are emblematic of the team’s frailties as a whole, with Erik ten Hag yet to land on a consistent style of play which has ‘hampered his development’.
‘I think it would be difficult for anyone coming in goal for Manchester United,’ the legendary ex-United ‘keeper told Up Front With Simon Jordan.
‘Why do you bring Andre Onana in? Well, his ability with his feet is incredible.
‘We saw that with Inter Milan last season but that was well drilled into that team, that was a clear system of how they played and a clear way of how he was contributing to that team.
‘He’s come in to a lot of confusion. How is the team playing? Are they supposed to play it out from the back every time? Are the players good enough to play it out? Is the system well drilled enough to play the ball out from the back every time? I don’t think it is.
‘I think a lot of things have hampered that development. Of course there have been injuries to a lot of the defenders so it’s been difficult. The pairings in front of him… I think he’s got about 12 or 14.’
Schmeichel was mightily impressed with Onana’s displays at Inter in Europe last season and applauded the Cameroonian for fronting up to the media following his costly mistake In United’s 4-3 loss to Bayern Munich back in September.
The Dane – a key member of United’s treble-winning side in 1999 – also lifted the lid on the advice he gave Onana in the aftermath of the Bayern defeat at the Theatre of Dreams.
‘I followed him for Inter last season in the Champions League and I was quite impressed with him so I know it’s there,’ Schmeichel added.
‘The goalkeeper is still a part of the team, don’t forget that, so whatever happens in the team will have a reflection on the goalkeeper’s performance.
‘Yes, it’s a different position and you’re required to do different things but if you’re teams not working then your goalkeeper won’t work.
‘Any little insecurity, with the pressures, it’s going to take off your performance. I think he was incredibly unlucky in the first Champions League game against Bayern Munich away to make the mistake he made.
‘That mistake has kind of made his reputation and that is what people are looking at now. I spoke to him after that game and he was incredibly sad. I work for CBS and I do post-match interviews and Andre wanted to speak to me. He comes on his own and he wants to apologise.
‘I love that. I love the fact that he came out and took responsibility for that on his own. I didn’t have to drag him in there, nobody from the media had to drag him in to do an interview. He was quite prepared to do that himself.
‘So he did that, I went and did a couple of other interviews, and met up with him again as he’s leaving and I said to him: “Playing for this football club requires something. I’ve seen you at Inter and I know you have it so don’t take anything that you are reading over the next couple of days for another other than that’s what happens”.’
Schmeichel went on: ‘The art of being a goalkeeper for Manchester United is that we all make mistakes, and we all do. We’ve all made mistakes, everyone that’s every been in goal for Manchester United has made a mistake. The art is that the next second it’s forgotten about.
‘You simply take the mistake and put it away, move on to the next moment. If you don’t then you will make a mistake in the next moment.
‘I said all of this to him and then after the game when you’re trying to go to sleep at night, play it through your mind – think about where you were, how was your balance and then if you have an opportunity to take it into the training session the next day and try and replicate it or come up with another solution.’
Schmeichel revealed just how ‘insecure’ Onana was while they spoke in the aftermath of United’s 3-2 defeat to Galatasaray on home soil, when an error from the shot-stopper led to Casemiro being sent off.
‘We had the game against Galatasaray at Old Trafford and I went up to him after the game, after my interviews. I spoke to him for about half an hour and I just said the same thing and kept saying it,’ he continued.
‘And at this point he’s so insecure, he’s now feeling what Manchester United is. It’s that pressure down on your shoulders and it’s difficult to get up from that.
‘I said, “Just relax about it, think about where you are, what it is you’re doing and try to do better. But you have to forget when you concede a goal, you cannot take it into the next moment!”‘
Schmeichel doubts Onana will be satisfied with his start at United but reiterated that the ‘keeper’s struggles must be understood in the context of the side’s collective failings this season.
He said: ‘If you ask Andre himself whether he’s happy with his first six months at Manchester United, I assume he’s says: “No, I can do a lot better!”
‘And we’ve seen him do better. We’ve signed him because we know he can do better so I hope that he’s going to do better.
‘But I’m not going to put all the responsibility on his shoulders because I think that would be so wrong.
‘I think the team hasn’t functioned, there’s a lot of things that haven’t been great there.
‘If you’re in that environment it’s difficult because every day you’re dragging yourself in and it’s just really tough and today is worse that when I played because you’ve got social media.’
For more stories like this, check our sport page.
Follow Metro Sport for the latest news on
Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.