‘Absolutely logical’: sports psychologist joins Rangnick at Manchester United

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<span>Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters</span>
Photograph: Phil Noble/Reuters

Ralf Rangnick has recruited Sascha Lense to be Manchester United’s first sports psychologist for two decades, describing the move as “absolutely logical” if the team are to be successful.

United’s previous mental coach was Bill Beswick, who joined in 1999 when Sir Alex Ferguson was the manager and left two years later. Lense, who is yet to have his work visa processed, worked with Rangnick at RB Leipzig from 2015-18. The interim manager was asked whether he was surprised that a club of United’s profile did not employ a psychologist.

Related: Ralf Rangnick lines up Chris Armas for Manchester United coaching staff

“I don’t know what the situation is like here and in other clubs,” Rangnick said. “In Germany most clubs have employed sports psychologists or mental coaches – whatever you would like to call them. It is absolutely logical. I even had someone like this back in 1998 [Hans-Dieter Hermann at Ulm].

“If you have special coaches for goalkeeping, physical education, even for strikers, fitness, whatever, you should also have an expert for the brain. It’s not so much putting them on the red sofa and holding hands for the players because most of them won’t do that anyway. It is about helping the players: that their brain should assist the body, not work against it. The players and everybody in our team should think in the right way.

“Whenever we speak about football we know that the major part is up here [the head]: what do you think, how do you analyse the situation?”

Rangnick outlined Lense’s approach. “I am very happy to have Sascha on board. He is hands-on. He is not working too much on the theory. The players have to buy in. I can tell them whatever I want but I need to convince them. I need to get into their heart, into their brains, into their blood.

“Having worked together at Leipzig I know we will benefit a lot [from Lense]. For me it is vital that we should have the best possible person for this job. He’s from Germany, a former second division player. I worked with him for three years at Leipzig – one year we won promotion from second division to first with myself [as the coach] and the following years with Ralph Hasenhüttl as head coach. I very much hope we will have him on board [by] the latest on Thursday.”

Manchester United (4-2-2-2): Henderson; Dalot, Lindelof, Bailly, Shaw; Van de Beek, Matic; Elenga, Lingard; Greenwood, Martial

Young Boys (4-4-2): Faivre; Hefti, Lustenberger, Lauper, Lefort; Sulejmani, Sierro, Aebischer, Ngamaleu; Elia, Siebatcheu

Rangnick also confirmed Chris Armas would replace Michael Carrick on the coaching staff once the American’s paperwork is processed. “He will hopefully join us in the next two days,” he said.

United host Young Boys on Wednesday in the final Champions League group game, having already qualified for the last 16. Rangnick said he may field a much-changed side from Sunday’s win over Crystal Palace and confirmed Donny van de Beek and Dean Henderson would start. He also said Nemanja Matic would be captain, indicating Harry Maguire will be rested.

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