Rangnick adds assistant and psychologist to Man Utd staff
Written by Training Ground Guru — December 7, 2021
RALF RANGNICK has added assistant Chris Armas and psychologist Sascha Lense to his staff at Manchester United.
Armas, 49, won 66 caps as a midfielder for the US men’s national team before embarking on a coaching career. He was assistant at New York Red Bulls for three years and then became Head Coach in July 2018, when Jesse Marsch left to join RB Leipzig.
It was during this time that he worked with Rangnick, who was Head of Sport and Development for Red Bull - overseeing global football initiatives for the group - in 2019.
Armas was dismissed by New York Red Bulls in September 2020 and joined Toronto FC as Head Coach in January 2021, although he lasted less than six months in the job and was fired following a 7-1 defeat by D.C. United.
The American is expected to join United this week, once his paperwork has been finalised.
Meanwhile, Lense is joining as United’s first full-time first-team sports psychologist for two decades. The last one was Bill Beswick, who joined in 1999 when Sir Alex Ferguson was manager and left two years later.
The 46-year-old German was introduced to United’s players and staff at Carrington today but is yet to have his visa processed. He worked with Rangnick at RB Leipzig from 2015 to 2018 and has also been on the staff at Dynamo Dresden and Schalke in recent years.
While United have had a full-time psychologist (Daniel Ransom) in the Academy for several years - and have occasionally used consultant psychologists at first-team level - they have not had anyone permanently in place. This puts them at odds with other top clubs - like Chelsea, who have long-standing Head of Sport Science and Psychology Tim Harkness on their staff; Arsenal, who have Head of Psychology and Personal Development David Priestley; and Liverpool, who have been using Lee Richardson three days a week since 2019.
Psychology and mental skills are also an important part of Gareth Southgate's England set-up, with Head of Performance Psychology a key member of his backroom team, along with culture expert Owen Eastwood. Rangnick has immediately seen a gap in United's provision at first-team level and brought in Lense.
“I worked with him for three years at Leipzig, in the year I won promotion from the Second to the First Division, and the following two years when Ralph Hasenhuttl was Head Coach and Zsolt Low - the current Assistant Coach of Thomas Tuchel - was Assistant Coach," Rangnick explained.
“I don’t know what the situation is like here and in other clubs. In Germany, most clubs have employed sports psychologists or mental coaches - whatever you would like to call them. It is absolutely logical. I even had someone like this back in 1998 [Hans-Dieter Hermann at Ulm].
“If you have special coaches for goalkeeping, physical education, even for strikers, fitness, whatever, you should also have an expert for the brain. It’s not so much putting them on the red sofa and holding hands for the players because most of them won’t do that anyway.
“It is about helping the players: that their brain should assist the body, not work against it. The players and everybody in our team should think in the right way. Whenever we speak about football we know that the major part is up here [the head]: what do you think, how do you analyse the situation?”
“I am very happy to have Sascha on board. He is hands-on. He is not working too much on the theory. The players have to buy in. I can tell them whatever I want but I need to convince them. I need to get into their heart, into their brains, into their blood.
“Having worked together at Leipzig I know we will benefit a lot. For me it is vital that we should have the best possible person for this job. I very much hope we will have him on board [by] the latest on Thursday.”
Speaking about Armas, Rangnick added: “I will also have one other assistant coach, with Chris Armas. Chris used to be the assistant coach at the New York Red Bulls under Jesse Marsch. That was five years ago, when I first met him.
“Since then we have met quite frequently. Also in my role as head of global for Red Bull in the last three-and-a-half years he was head coach for the New York Red Bulls and for Toronto in the MLS.”
First-team coach Michael Carrick left the club last week, freeing up a place on the coaching staff.