Manchester United boss Ralf Rangnick has opened up on the need for sports psychologists in the modern game and what new staff member Sascha Lense offers in particular.
The German boss has wasted no time in surrounding himself with people he can trust but one appointment in particular caught the eyes of the fans.
According to Sky Sports, Rangnick said: “I wouldn’t say I was surprised [that United didn’t have a sports pschologist].
“I know from Germany there are quite a few clubs who do not work with a sports psychologist. But, for me, it is absolutely logical.
“Every club has different experts for goalkeeping, for physical performance, for different areas of the field – defence, midfield, offence.
“The team of experts at some teams is probably bigger than the number of players in a squad.
“If you then consider the brain, the head, the way players, staff members or coaches think is the most relevant one, then for me it is only logical to have the best possible expert from that area in your staff.
“This is what it’s all about, to help the players think the right things and not think the wrong things. To develop players, the brain should help the body perform at the highest possible level.
“This is part of the jigsaw, of the puzzle. It’s important any top club, and Manchester United is one of the biggest clubs in the world – have the best possible people, and they should at least have all those little pieces available.
“It shouldn’t be the case that in certain areas we don’t have anyone. I strongly believe that every club in the future should have someone in this department.
“Players at this level are under pressure to deliver and perform at the highest possible level. At times they might need help and might need somebody to speak to.
“That should not always only be the manager or head coach. It’s important for the players to know there is a neutral person, an expert, to whom they can address in situations where they might need a helping hand, or even somebody to just listen to them.
“In Germany, we had the case of Robert Enke, who committed suicide when he was still the German national team goalkeeper. If you look at this aspect of the game, it’s important to have somebody in your staff.
“Sascha watches every training session, he’s part of every meeting, he’s part of the staff and he speaks regularly with players.
“Of course, it is not obligatory, we do not force players to speak to Sascha, but they know he’s there. He’s a smart and decent guy, and he’s top in his job, I know that because we worked together at Leipzig for three years. The players will find that out very soon, if they haven’t already.”
United have often been accused of being mentally weak and bottling leads in the post-Sir Alex Ferguson era.
Naturally some of that has had to do with the football played on the pitch but other times it was to do with the personalities of the players who played.
The Red Devils couldn’t seem capable of winning matches comfortably and when they did take the lead, fans bit their nails until the final whistle, at the fear of conceding the kind of soft goals that became synonymous with the players’ defending.
A sports psychologist may not just alleviate the huge pressure it takes to play for Manchester United, which is why many players fail in successfully donning the famous red shirt, but he may also help build an unshakeable mentality.
Rangnick will hope that, although he can’t be rushed, Lense can make a quick impact on the players in this regard.