Manchester United’s Ralf Rangnick says squad lack mental strength

Manchester United interim manager Ralf Rangnick has identified a lack of ability to overcome adversity within the squad he inherited from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, sources have told ESPN, with only Scott McTominay and Luke Shaw regarded as consistently displaying those qualities since he took charge in December.

United face a battle to secure a top four finish and qualify for next season’s Champions League after Sunday’s 4-1 defeat against Manchester City at the Etihad left Rangnick’s team one point behind fourth-placed Arsenal in fifth spot, albeit having played three more Premier League games than Mikel Arteta’s team, whom they are due to play at the Emirates on April 23.

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And although the loss at City was only the second defeat in 18 games during Rangnick’s temporary spell in charge, United have won just eight times under the former Hoffenheim and RB Leipzig coach.

On five occasions, United have surrendered the lead in games in which they have gone on to draw and sources have told ESPN that Rangnick and his coaches have been alarmed by the manner in which dominant performances have quickly deteriorated into a situation where the team is forced to hold onto a point.

It has also been noted that United have been unable to win a game under Rangnick after falling behind and on only two occasions, against Newcastle and Atletico Madrid, have they been able to secure a positive result after conceding the first goal.

Rangnick appointed sports psychologist Sascha Lense to his backroom team following his arrival in an effort to improve the mindset of a group players that had six of Solskjaer’s final 11 games in charge earlier this season.

But sources have told ESPN that only McTominay and Shaw have been able to raise their performance sufficiently when United have fallen behind or lost the lead in games.

Sources have said that some players have become distracted by mistakes, which has impacted on their performance, while others have allowed frustrations with teammates and tactics to affect their focus and contribution.

Rangnick has been impressed, however, by the character and leadership displayed by McTominay and Shaw during difficult periods on the pitch and regards both players as possessing the attributes required in such circumstances.

Shaw missed Sunday’s defeat at City due to a positive COVID-19 test, but McTominay played for 90 minutes in midfield.