Bastian Schweinsteiger got a much needed win in the Premier League on Saturday. But the new year didn't t exactly start well for Liverpool and coach Jürgen Klopp who went down 2-0 to West Ham.
Liverpool's close - and contentious - win over Sunderland in their final match of 2015 had some pundits and many fans dreaming of them going a run in the second half of the season and returning to the Champions League. Those fantasies will now be on ice after Jürgen Klopp's men deservedly lost to West Ham to open 2016.
Liverpool bossed possession in London, but as is so often the case, that statistic told a completely deceptive story. The Hammers got off ten shots on target to Reds' two. Michail Antonio set the tone, putting the hosts 1-0 up just shy of the ten-minute mark with a point-blank-range header.
Liverpool supporters, of course, dream of a Merseyside version of the swarming offensive football that earned Klopp and Dortmund two Bundesliga titles, but all the evidence from Saturday suggests that they'll have to wait for even a rough approximation.
The Reds were dithering up front and proved susceptible to counterattacks once again as Andy Carroll doubled West Ham's lead in minute 54. It was no doubt a satisfying goal for the former Liverpool striker-cum-punchline, for whom the Reds shelled out more than 40 million euros in 2011, only to let go as a complete bust.
Liverpool laid siege in the Hammers' end for the final fifteen minutes, but aside from a late ball cleared off the line, the Reds never threatened to get on the scoreboard. Philippe Countinho searched in vain for any of his intermittent inspiration, while Christian Benteke looked like a Yeti that had somehow strayed from the Himalayas into Bolleyn Ground.
"I'm really angry today because we could have got so much more," Klopp - who was courted by West Ham last summer - told the BBC. "Today, we deserved to lose. We always had the ball, we could have made much more chances but we didn't."
The 2-0 victory lifted West Ham two points clear of the Reds in the table. Unless Liverpool bring in reinforcements at the front and the back in the transfer break, the Champions League would seem to be but a fleeting pipe dream.
Manchester United and Arsenal win, Leicester draw
Elsewhere in the Premier League, Bastian Schweinsteiger started as Manchester United, as the Red Devils broke an eight-game winless streak with a deserved 2-1 win at home over strugglers Swansea. Schweinsteiger, whose season was interrupted late in 2015 with a three-match suspension, put in a mixed performance but was involved in the build up as the hosts grabbed the lead.
A minute and a half after the interval, the German won the ball for Ashley Young to put in a precision cross. Anthony Martial headed home. After a fortunate equalizer by former Hoffenheim man Gylfi Sigurdsson in minute 69, Schweinsteiger again turned provider to the provider, sending Martial on a lightning run down the left flank. Wayne Ronner back-heeled in the French youngster's cross, breaking a two-month draught with a highlight-reel goal.
Man United coach Louis van Gaal - formerly of Bayern - will breathe a little easier after racking up three points over game but outmatched opponents.
Table-toppers Arsenal eked out a 1-0 victory over Newcastle Untied, and for a change the Premier League's assist leader Mesut Özil wasn't directly involved in the goal. Instead, defender Laurent Koscielny poked home an Olivier Giroud headed pass from close in. The German playmaker did, however, thump in the corner prior to that pass.
The three points for the Gunners could prove particularly valuable, as the second-best team in the league, Leicester, failed to beat Bournemouth. The Foxes, whose squad includes former German national defender Roberth Huth, only managed a scoreless draw despite their opponents playing short-handed for the final half hour.