By Simon Peach, PA Chief Football Writer
Interim manager Ralf Rangnick has confirmed Sascha Lense will join Manchester United in the “vital” role of sport psychologist to ensure the group “think in the right way”.
Having been handed the reins until the end of the season following Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s exit, the 63-year-old kicked off his time in the hot-seat with a 1-0 win against Crystal Palace on Sunday.
United worked over the weekend to add new faces to the existing backroom team and Rangnick admitted at his unveiling that they would have to be “a bit smart and clever” when looking for additions.
The German has now confirmed Chris Armas, the former New York Red Bulls and Toronto FC manager, will be joining United as assistant coach, with Lense coming in as sport psychologist.
🚨 There will be two new faces in the backroom team at Old Trafford...#MUFC
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 7, 2021
“In Germany in the last couple of years, most clubs have employed a sports psychologist or mental coach, whatever you would like to call them,” Rangnick said. “For me, it is absolutely logical.
“I even had somebody like this, Hans-Dieter Hermann, the current sport psychologist of the German national team, back in 1998 in Ulm. We were probably the first club in Germany who had ever employed a sport psychologist.
“For me, it’s only a question of logic. I mean, if you have special coaches for goalkeeping, physical education, even for strikers, fitness, whatever, you also should have an expert for the brain.
“Not so much to put them on the red sofa and holding hands for the players because most of them won’t do that anyway.
“For me, it’s about helping the players that the brain should assist the body and not work against it. This is what it’s about.
“That the players and even the coaching staff, everybody in our team, should think in the right way.
“We all know what it’s about. Whenever we speak about football we know that the major part is up here. What do you think? How do you analyse situations?
“Therefore I’m very happy to have Sascha on board. He’s a former Second Division player, he’s hands on. He’s not sort of working too much in the theory, he’s hands on. He’s part of every training session.
🧠 "I want to develop the team, train the brains and at the same time, encourage the players to do the right things.
"It’s important to win games in the first instance, and then step by step, develop the team in the right direction."#MUFC | #MUNCRY pic.twitter.com/hjw6mf92NE
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 4, 2021
“Having worked together with him in Leipzig, I know that we could benefit a lot from him.
“It’s also about coaching the coaches. Of course the coaches have to allow that and, for me, it’s vital that on top level that you should have the best possible person on this job.”
United are waiting for work visas for ex-USA international Armas and Lense, but Rangnick is hopeful they will get the green light by Thursday at the latest.
The 63-year-old spoke at his unveiling about the need to “train the brain” and believes the new coaching arrivals will aid the transition to his way of working.
“It’s about gaining confidence, believing in the way that we are playing,” Rangnick said.
“The players have to buy in. I can tell them whatever I want, I need to convince them, I have to get into their hearts, into their brains, into their blood, whatever, so that they make idea of football to their own.”
Rangnick knows they need to make incremental steps and hopes to continue building momentum in Wednesday’s Champions League clash against Young Boys.
United are already assured of topping Group F heading into the Old Trafford encounter, when they will look to make amends for September’s shock 2-1 loss in Switzerland.
— Manchester United (@ManUtd) December 7, 2021
“It definitely makes sense that we will rest a few players due to the crowded fixture list over the next few weeks and months,” Rangnick said.
“We need to make sure that we have as many recovered players as possible, also for the Premier League.
“On the other end of course we need to keep the positive momentum and our ethos is to win games, we may even be playing with a few new players or fresh players, it’s still important that we win the game.
“And, by the way, the first game in this group we lost at Young Boys and so we still need to make up for that and it’s clear, no matter which kind of plays we will start tomorrow, we definitely want to win the game.”
Rangnick confirmed Dean Henderson and Donny Van De Beek will start against Young Boys, but Paul Pogba remains absent and Anthony Martial is resting due to discomfort in a previously injured knee.
Luke Shaw and Jesse Lingard were pictured in training on Tuesday along with Edinson Cavani and Raphael Varane, but the latter duo are not yet ready to feature.
“They both cannot play tomorrow but they were part of the training session today,” Rangnick added. “Edi even yesterday, for Rapha it was the first time they were on the pitch together with the team.
“If everything goes well, I expect both of them back in full training next week.”