The appointment of Sascha Lense as sport psychologist at Manchester United is the first of its kind at the club for two decades.
United interim manager Ralf Rangnick explained his reasons for the appointment at a press conference yesterday and it is no surprise that he has made this one of his very first decisions at the club.
It is odd that hundreds of millions of pounds worth of players have been supported by massive ranks of coaches, fitness coaches and physios, yet they have not had a single mental specialist since Bill Beswick in 2001.
‘Actually, I don’t know what the situation is like in England, in other clubs, but in Germany in the last couple of years, most clubs have employed a sports psychologist,’ Rangnick explained.
‘For me, it is absolutely logical.
‘I didn’t have somebody like this [until] Hans-Dieter Hermann, the current sports psychologist of the German national team, back in 1998.
‘For me, it’s only a question of logic, if you have special coaches for goalkeeping, for physical and education, even for strikers, for fitness, you also should have an expert for the brain.’
It does seem logical. But why hasn’t the area been addressed in all this time? Is it because footballers do not react well to all the ‘touchy feely’ stuff? Can we really see Harry Maguire and co. wandering into Wendy Rhoades’ office in Billions, lying on the sofa and having a little cry on her shoulder about how they’ve not been playing well?
Rangnick reassures us that this is not how it will work.
‘Not so much to put the players on the red sofa and hold hands with them because most of them won’t do that anyway, but for me, it’s about helping the players [know] that the brain should assist the body and not work against it,’ he explains.
‘So, this is what it’s about for the players and even the coaching staff, everybody in our team should think in the right way, we all know what it’s about.
‘When we speak about football, we know the major part is up here [in the brain], so, “what do you think? How do you analyse this situation?”
But who is Sascha Lense and what makes him the best man for the job?
He is a 48-year-old German who played over 100 matches in the second tier of the Bundesliga at clubs such as FSV Frankfurt, Dynamo Dresden and SV Darmstadt 98.
He completed his degree in sport psychology at the University of Dresden and has been working in that role at football clubs since 2014, twice at Dynamo Dresden, at Schalke and at RB Leipzig, where he met Rangnick.
‘I’m very happy to have Sascha on board, as I said, he’s a former Second Division player, he’s hands on, he’s not too much working with the theory, he’s hands on,’ Rangnick said.
‘He’s part of every training session. Having worked together with him in Leipzig, I know we could benefit a lot from him.
‘It’s also as I said with the coaching and the coaches, of course, the coaches have to allow that. And for me, it’s vital that on top level, you should have the best possible person on this job.’
Lense’s appointment at United is subject to work permit approval.