Ralf Rangnick ready to appoint Manchester United's first sports psychologist since 2001

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  • Manchester United
    Manchester United
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Ralf Rangnick
    Ralf Rangnick
    German association football manager
  • Dean Henderson
    LiveTodayTomorrowvs--|
  • Sascha Lense
    German footballer
Ralf Rangnick watches from the sidelines during Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace - Ralf Rangnick wants to make his mark on ‘hearts, brains and blood’ in Manchester United revolution - REUTERS
Ralf Rangnick watches from the sidelines during Manchester United’s 1-0 win against Crystal Palace - Ralf Rangnick wants to make his mark on ‘hearts, brains and blood’ in Manchester United revolution - REUTERS

Ralf Rangnick wants his playing philosophy to become infused into his Manchester United players’ “hearts, brains and blood” as his Old Trafford revolution gathers pace.

United’s new interim manager said success would hinge on the squad buying into his methods and hopes the appointment of a full-time sports psychologist will aid that process.

Sascha Lense is joining United’s staff, subject to visa approval, and will become the first sports psychologist the club has employed in such a role since Sir Alex Ferguson’s former assistant, Steve McClaren, drafted in Bill Beswick in the late 1990s until 2001.

It is understood that United have not employed anybody in such a position full-time in the two decades since as Rangnick – who has also added former New York Red Bulls coach Chris Armas to his coaching staff – wastes no time drawing a line under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s regime.

Rangnick takes charge of his second game on Wednesday, against Young Boys at Old Trafford, and he will use the Champions League dead rubber as a chance to take a closer look at some of the club’s fringe players.

Goalkeeper Dean Henderson, whom Ajax are interesting in loaning next month, and midfielder Donny van de Beek, another player facing an uncertain future, are set to start. United have already secured progress to the knockout stages as group winners.

Rangnick made a number of changes in Sunday’s 1-0 win over Crystal Palace, employing a 4-2-2-2 formation that saw Marcus Rashford paired centrally alongside Cristiano Ronaldo up front, Jadon Sancho and Bruno Fernandes as nominal No 10s and a higher defensive line.

The 63-year-old German hopes United’s players will continue to embrace his plans as he targets more control defensively and a high-energy press.

“It’s about gaining confidence, believing in the way we are playing,” he said. “The players have to buy in. I can tell them whatever I want but I need to convince them.

“I have to get into their hearts, into their brains, into their blood, whatever, so that they make their idea of football to my own. This is what it’s about. The first step has been taken and now its about the next steps, [Young Boys], Saturday at Norwich, Tuesday at Brentford and then the last one before Christmas at home against Brighton.”

Rangnick is one of the most influential managers of the modern era - REUTERS
Rangnick is one of the most influential managers of the modern era - REUTERS

Lense, 46, a former second division player in Germany, worked with Rangnick for three years at RB Leipzig. Rangnick, who hopes Lense and Armas will have their work permits approved in the next 48 hours, said it was a no-brainer to employ a sports psychologist and said the new man would take a very hands on role.

“For me, it is absolutely logical,” he said. “I even had somebody like this, Hans-Dieter Hermann, the current sports psychologist of the German national team – back in 1998 in Ulm.

“If you have specialist coaches for goalkeeping, for physical education, even for strikers, for whatever, for fitness, you also should have an expert for the brain.

“Not so much to put them on the sofa and for holding hands with the players because most of them would not do that anyway. For me, it’s about helping the players that the brain should assist the body and not work against it.

“That is what it’s about – that the players and even the coaching staff, everybody in our team, should think in the right way. Whenever we speak about football we all know that the major part is up here – what do you think, how do you analyse the situation?

“Therefore, I’m very happy to have Sascha on board. He’s hands on, he’s not caught up too much working on the theory. He’s hands on and part of every training session. I know we could benefit a lot from him. For me, it’s vital on the top level that we should have the best possible person for this job.”

United’s clean sheet against Palace was their first at Old Trafford since April and Rangnick said it remained a priority to “fine tune our collective defending”.

“Six months, no clean sheet in your own stadium – for me, it was clear where our priorities should be and how we should develop the team in the next couple of weeks,” he said.

“It showed how the team could defend if they were together and obviously there is still space for improvement. We can still improve in possession of the ball, we can create more chances, be more flexible on the ball, play more logically on the ball.”

Henderson, who has made just one appearance this season, and Van de Beek will be given a chance to impress against Young Boys. Henderson, whom Rangnick described as a “very good, ambitious goalkeeper”, is determined to win over the new manager but he has little interest in playing second fiddle to David de Gea for the remainder of the campaign if his fortunes do not change.

Edwin van der Sar, the Ajax chief executive and former United No 1, is an admirer of Henderson. The Dutch club could test Rangnick’s resolve in the transfer window next month as they look for a solution to their goalkeeping problems.

Meanwhile, Rangnick said he hoped defender Raphael Varane and striker Edinson Cavani would resume full training next week following injuries.

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