Ralf Rangnick adds 'expert for the brain' Sascha Lense to Manchester United backroom staff

German interim manager ready to give opportunities to fringe players for dead-rubber Champions League tie against Young Boys

Manchester United manager Ralf Rangnick talks to Mason Greenwood after the Premier League win over Crystal Palace. EPA

Ralf Rangnick has brought in an “expert for the brain” to help Manchester United’s players after adding a sports psychologist to his backroom staff.

The interim manager has hired Sascha Lense as well as confirming that former New York Red Bulls manager Chris Armas will be part of his coaching team after the departure of Michael Carrick.

“We have decided to bring in a sport psychologist, Sascha Lense. He’s from Germany, a former second division player,” Rangnick said. “I used to work with him for three years at Leipzig, the year we won promotion to the first division and he worked the following years with Ralph Hasenhuttl. He's a former player, hands on, not caught too much in the theory.”

Rangnick, who is waiting for both Lense and Armas to get work permits because of Brexit regulations, expressed some surprise that United did not already have a sports psychologist as he seeks to improve his new charges’ mentality.

“Most German clubs have employed a psychologist,” he said. “For me it is logical. If you have special coaches for goalkeeping, strikers, fitness, you should also have an expert for the brain.

"Not to put them on the red sofa, or hold hands: for me, it's about helping the players know the brain should assist the body, not work against it. For me everyone in the team should think the right way. Whenever we speak about football, the major part is [the brain].”

Rangnick will use Wednesday night's home game against Young Boys of Bern as an opportunity to look at more of his new squad. Despite losing in Switzerland in September, United have already won their Champions League group.

“It makes sense that we rest a few players due to the crowded fixture list over the next weeks and months,” he said. The German confirmed that Dean Henderson and Donny van de Beek will start, giving the goalkeeper just his second appearance of the season.

Ralf Rangnick has confirmed Donny van de Beek will start against Young Boys. AFP

United will again be without Raphael Varane and Edinson Cavani, though both are back in light training. Anthony Martial will be another absentee after reporting pain in his knee on Saturday and missing Rangnick’s debut win over Crystal Palace. Luke Shaw has returned to training but Phil Jones, who was not named in United’s Champions League squad, is ineligible.

Rangnick hinted he may afford an opportunity to Jesse Lingard, who has only played 25 minutes of football since October and who is expected to leave Old Trafford when his contract expires in the summer.

“Everybody has the chance to perform and present themselves,” Rangnick said. “I am happy to give game time to quite a few of them tomorrow. It is a perfect opportunity to get to know the players."

He argued it is “too early” to know if United can win the Champions League this season but took heart from the 1-0 victory over Palace, which brought a first clean sheet at Old Trafford since April.

Nemanja Matic has said the Manchester United players are still adjusting to Ralf Rangnick's methods. AFP

United began at pace, with the players adapting to Rangnick’s high-energy approach and he said: “It showed how the team can play. If I look back at Palace I don't think we lacked energy. Obviously the first half-hour was almost perfect, the way we pressed all over the pitch. I didn't expect it on that level.”

Midfielder Nemanja Matic, who Rangnick confirmed will captain United on Wednesday, admitted United have not fully grasped all of the German’s demands yet.

“We always try to adapt and understand as soon as possible,” said the Serbian. “Everyone saw last game a bit of his idea, the high pressing, the organisation. We are training only a couple of days and we didn't have enough time to understand more."

Updated: December 7th 2021, 4:18 PM