David de Gea
De Gea is adored at Manchester United but could yet leave the club in favour of a move to Real Madrid. Getty Images

Peter Schmeichel has urged Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea to extend his contract at Old Trafford as a sign that he has belief in the club's ability to restore their previously lofty reputation.

De Gea has been nothing short of inspirational at times this season, producing a series of masterful performances that have provided a remarkably solid platform for the club to go on and compete for a top-four berth under Louis van Gaal despite a perceived lack of defensive strength.

Unsurprisingly, the Spaniard's excellent form has attracted admiring glances from overseas, with Real Madrid evidently keen to capitalise on his unresolved contract situation in a bid to lure him back to La Liga.

Real icon and long-term number one Iker Casillas has shown inevitable signs of regression over recent seasons and with De Gea's current deal due to expire in 2016, it is believed they view him as an ideal replacement despite his previous ties to rivals Atletico.

While the 24-year-old has previously sought to ease supporters' fears that he could leave Manchester United amid various dubious claims concerning an uneasy relationship between the player and van Gaal, Schmeichel believes De Gea finalising fresh terms would help send a strong message to the club's key transfer rivals.

"It's very important the club's best players sign new contracts to send a signal," the Dane, who secured legendary status and won a plethora of silverware at Manchester United during an eight-year spell between 1991-99, was quoted as saying by Spanish daily Marca.

"It shows that they believe in the Manchester United project and believe the club will go back not only to the top of the Premier League but also European football. If De Gea signs a new deal it would be a very big signal and I'm sure everyone who loves the club would love that.

"Fingers crossed he will sign another five-year contract."

Manchester United, absent from European competition this year following the dismal reign of David Moyes are in the midst of an excellent run of form that has seen them leapfrog stuttering rivals Manchester City into third place ahead of their derby meeting on 12 April.

With seven matches of the 2014/15 campaign left to play, van Gaal's team boast an eight-point advantage over fifth-place Liverpool and now look extremely likely to secure qualification for the Champions League.

Such an achievement, the minimum that was expected during the Dutchman's first season in charge, could prove pivotal in helping Manchester United to retain the likes of De Gea and also continue to compete at a sufficient level in the transfer market.