Ralf Rangnick has turned to his sports psychologist Sascha Lense to try to rebuild Manchester United’s confidence and end their habits of losing leads. United have drawn 1-1 in their past three games, all after scoring first and having an advantage at the break, resulting in the loss of four points and their elimination from the FA Cup.
In Rangnick’s brief reign, they have drawn five times after being ahead and the interim manager accepted their belief has suffered.
He brought in Lense, who had worked with him at RB Leipzig, to address the mental side of the game and has turned to an old ally to address his players, ndividually and as a squad, in an attempt to make United more resilient.
Rangnick said: “In 11 of 13 games since I arrived we score the first goal and were 1-0 up but we only won half. When you are 1-0 up in three consecutive games concede an equaliser, this affects the mindset of the players. They say: ‘We should have been 3-0 or 4-0 up and all of a sudden it is 1-1.’ If we concede early in the second half, it affects the confidence of the players. They are human beings, not robots.
“I spoke to Sascha and we speak regularly about that. The only thing we can do is speak to the players, one by one, to the group and the whole team.
“Number one, we have to be more effective to score a second and a third goal and just kill a game off. But if that doesn’t happen, stick to the gameplan, stay solid, stay tactically disciplined. I look to all those goals we conceded in the second halves and it was just too easy.”
United face Brighton in the Premier League on Tuesday night and Rangnick’s difficulties in getting his team to sustain their bright starts reflect their struggles to play his preferred brand of football, which he admitted does not come easily to them. “We are not a naturally born pressing team with a lot of players in their DNA to press all the time,” he said.
Harry Maguire, who was culpable for Burnley’s equaliser last week, has to adjust to a higher defensive line but Rangnick has ruled out stripping him of the armband. “He is our captain and I don’t see any reason to change that,” he added.
Jadon Sancho, who never scored under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, has two goals in this last three appearances and Rangnick, who likened his slow start to Robert Lewandowski’s underwhelming first year for Borussia Dortmund, believes the winger is benefiting from his gameplan.
“The step to a club like Manchester United was a big one for anyone,” he said. “At 20 years old, it was a massive, huge step. That this takes time is normal. The style of football we want to play fits perfectly to his assets and his strengths coming from the left side. That he is scoring goals and giving assists helps to raise his confidence. I’m pretty positive that Jadon is now on the right pathway now. He realises he can be one of the best wingers in the Premier League.”