A young player’s first league start will always bring some nerves along with it. When that debut comes away to his team’s most bitter rival, it’s an even more nerve-wracking experience. That’s what happened on Sunday when 18-year-old right-back Trent Alexander-Arnold got called up to play against Manchester United at Old Trafford due to an injury to usual starter Nathaniel Clyne.
And though Liverpool ended up conceding a late goal to split the points, Alexander-Arnold gave an impressively solid performance as part of a makeshift back four. His debut garnered him praise from all corners, including manager Jürgen Klopp, as well as teammate and veteran defender Ragnar Klavan.
About the youngster’s performance, Klopp responded in his typical style.
“Nice, eh?” he answered.
“Then you see [Anthony] Martial, one of the quickest players in the Premier League, in the first two situations it was difficult and he needed a little bit of time to adapt. But then he did brilliantly.
“The decision was not that easy. The first impulse if Clyney can’t play is Millie on the right and Alberto [Moreno] left – but I didn’t want to change two positions because of one injury.”
Putting his faith in an inexperienced player before such an important says a lot about what the manager thinks of Alexander-Arnold’s talent. Or, to have him tell it: “We didn’t have to be too brave to bring him, we thought he was ready for it and he proved it.”
Another person who was quick to praise Alexander-Arnold’s performance was his fellow defender and teammate on the night, Ragnar Klavan. Though it’s Klavan’s first year with the Reds, the 31-year-old is a veteran of the Estonian National Team and had a long and successful career in the Eredivisie and the Bundesliga before joining Liverpool this past summer. Due to injuries, Klavan has found plenty of game time this season, and he’s done quite well for Liverpool on the pitch, including in Sunday’s game against United.
When asked about his young teammate’s performance, Klavan was quick to praise, telling the official website, “Really big compliments to Trent. To step in at such short notice a couple of hours before the game and then perform like he did at Old Trafford, that shows he has a lot of quality, and he’s a good player.”
With Liverpool’s options at full-back woefully limited, it’s heartening to see a young prospect do so well in that position on such a big stage. He’ll likely get another chance to show his class on Wednesday when the Reds have their FA Cup replay match against Plymouth Argyle.