Alexander-Arnold reminds us why we love football outside of drama | Jonathan Liew

There was a decoy Liverpool bus. This is what got his tires slashed by Manchester United fans in an alley near Old Trafford.

Unmarked and unannounced, the real Liverpool bus sneaked through the rear entrance to avoid the hundreds of protesters ahead.

United also operated several fake buses to shuttle between the hotel and the stadium. The actors themselves traveled in their own cars and arrived six hours ago. On the way, riot vans and police horses were jostled to keep the crowds away. Two arrests were made. remind me. Why were we doing all this again?

This, perhaps, is the prevailing theme of this past eight months of plague football: the vague feeling somewhere in the middle of countless twists and unsatisfying compromises, the endless what and where and when, we why we misplaced . Feed buses. Thursday 8.15 pm the match was postponed because the fans stopped it. Is this weird? Is this normal? What are we all doing here? Naturally, many of these uncertainties remain. But somehow, a certain logic also emerged between the six goals and the lawless fun.

Liverpool are back in their first race four. United are staggering towards the end of the season, like a 58 team playing on the fumes. Harry Maguire is more important than we think. And after the toughest season of his career, Trent Alexander-Arnold has weathered the storm.

Tired legs, tired minds, tired bodies, tired consciences: these became the motifs of the Liverpool epidemic, a mess of barely readable subplots that seem pointless the more you look. And despite all the turbulence and grudges on the pitch, he looked painfully docile on Liverpool: engulfed in a barrage of back passes and desperate crosses, a team trying the same things, with growing hope that it would somehow click.

For most of the first half hour, it was seen that this game followed a similar pattern. United scored, Bruno Fernandes provided the little inventive move the game desperately needed. Liverpool swelled and swelled and passed and passed. They got a penalty that was cleared by VAR. It felt like one of those nights. But from a messy fixed-piece situation, Diogo Jota swept the ball past Dean Henderson with an instinctive heel flick. It was a mainstay if nothing else.

Few players have embodied Liverpool's pains this season as faithfully as Alexander-Arnold. One minute you are a virtual unknown; next, you're one of the hottest soccer establishments on the planet and maybe the most famous corner taker in history; You've lost your place in the next England and everyone has basically agreed that you can't defend it. This is a familiar cycle of boom and bust with many claiming talents 22-years-old in the past. But somehow in the last few weeks, something has stirred inside of him: the courage and resilience we perhaps expected to see but not necessarily so soon. Alexander-Arnold hit a free kick from the right. There was a small strut as he approached the ball, the slight flicking of his ankle only causing a little too much swing. You didn't need to be an experienced Alexander-Arnold watcher to realize that this is again a player who is comfortable with the game. Firmino's header was excellent and in retrospect, perhaps this was the moment Liverpool found their purpose. Oh wait. Yes. That's how it was supposed to work. For 90 minutes plus change, Old Trafford was Alexander‑Arnold's game.

Firmino. Scandalous step to send Paul Pogba to ice cream. Incredible pass from the hill to Sadio Mané. He threw a few rakish on the target. Five key toggles. And as Gareth Southgate watches from the stands, muttering a reminder that he's not just upping his game; it raises others.

Much of the criticism Alexander-Arnold has received this season has been measured by the standards he set himself. Let's take a moment to remember what a thrilling high-wire move he's created for himself: quarterback, midfielder, setter, last-ditch defender, inexhaustible engine. This is a role that only a handful of players on the planet can play, even at a proficient level. Meanwhile, in one of their supposedly worst seasons, Liverpool still tops the standings in terms of chances created, interceptions, tackles and forward passes.

And as an extreme second half unfolded, there was something else there too. : an unbridled sense of pleasure that seems to create its own clarity around it. Marcus Rashford is galloping. Mo Salah finished fourth.

Jürgen Klopp goes for a banana on the touchline. Scott McTominay was frantically chasing the game like a man who accidentally got on a decoy bus. And at the heart of it all, Alexander-Arnold: playing like the man who reinvented football. It was fine. It was fun. And you realize: maybe that was the point of everything.

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