On a Premier League Wednesday with nine games played simultaneously, spectacular goals and the top five teams each victorious, it was another home loss for Manchester United taking the headlines. . Whenever United loses, its crisis. When other top teams slip up, its the quirky nature of the Premier League. The predictable reaction speaks to the sky-high expectations for a team proven perennial contender and 13 times Premier League champion. While its premature to suggest United have abdicated their throne, retaining their title this term has become improbable. Setting the bar lower to Champions League qualification even seems an uphill climb for a team reflecting United only in colours and crest. The mighty have fallen. But how far? After Wednesdays 1-0 loss to Everton, Manchester United sits 9th: Uniteds lowest ever position after 14 games. The home form is most disconcerting. David Moyes side has already been shut out twice at Old Trafford this campaign. Their eight home goals for is equal to the likes of West Ham, who have no true striker and one less than last place Sunderland. In comparison, Manchester City has scored 29 at home in the same number of games. Thats a Grand Canyon sized difference between supposed rivals on the field. The gap, incredible considering United finished 11 points ahead of City a season ago. Wednesdays loss is merely salt in the wound. The Everton away support mocked Moyes throughout. United support most likely felt like doing the same, if it were not the previous instructions by his predecessor, "your job now is to stand by our new manager." Wariness persists about the new man. While the players and staff all say the right things, belief amongst even the most ardent supporter wavers. Patience is preached. That narrative is difficult to swallow for supporters who have grown accustomed to winning trophies at a club with the bankroll to support ambition. Perhaps Sir Alex saw this coming. Perhaps he had got everything he could out of this group of players. Perhaps he knew the team needed an overhaul. And perhaps that was a little bit too much for a 71-year-old manager with nothing to prove to start over and rebuild. And perhaps banking on ownership to actually use the clubs financial might to address the issues in the side was something Ferguson could no longer stomach. This argument is less about the man in charge, rather than the team on the field. The goals United would score a year ago are now finding the woodwork. The challenges are sloppy. The shape leaves much to desire. Its striking the team couldnt rise up to the challenge of Everton; a fixture that was always going to be circled on the calendar, no matter where Everton and Manchester United sat in the table. The fact Moyes former team sat above his current gave added urgency. The Reds didnt respond. Yes, Wayne Rooney and Danny Welbeck hit post and crossbar respectively. But the chances for Everton were as good, or better than what United could muster. The irony, plain to see, with a United transfer targets injury replacement Bryan Oviedo scoring the match winner. The Everton midfield, which was plucked of Marouane Fellaini at the transfer window, was dominant throughout, with Fellainis replacements James McCarthy and Gareth Barry keeping the shape United only wished they could have. And Fellaini, fortunate to have stayed on the field after an ugly challenge, and looking a shell of the influential player he was while wearing blue. "We never felt inferior," remarked a jubilant Everton manager, Roberto Martinez. A Martinez managed team had never scored a goal at Old Trafford, let alone win. His Everton team in one try did what Moyes Everton couldnt accomplish in over a decade – win at Old Trafford. It was a measured, calculated and composed approach by the visitors. Time after time, they exposed the weakness in Uniteds midfield. United can still maintain possession of the ball in the middle of the park. But the east-west ball movement lack cutting edge and fluidity. The end result is a stale, predictable product. Most noticeably, Uniteds inability to put high pressure on the ball, and subsequent lack of numbers in attack on the counter left United at the mercy of a superior Everton midfield. Vintage United teams over the last two decades were deadly at forcing mistakes through putting pressure on the ball and forcing teams out of their element. It was always near textbook counter-attacking football. That was the Manchester United way. When in possession, Sir Alex Fergusons United would attack in waves. It would be relentless and it would break you down. This new United sits back. And when on the ball, there are very few options in support. Everton were vastly superior at both pressing the ball and attacking in numbers, just as West Brom were in a shock away victory at the Theatre of Dreams earlier this season. Fluid movement on and off the ball and purposeful possession broke down United. These were no fluky, lucky away victories. They were well earned. We should fall short of calling United a bad team. They are still a good team with a collection of players able to compete. But they have simply fallen back to the pack. Hanging in and grinding out points is where the team is. Thats not a bad thing. Its just not typical United. Robin van Persie and Wayne Rooney have match changing, game winner abilities. Outside f the two, the squad falls short on top talent. So system, discipline, and effort need be relied upon. No matter what happens in January, Moyes number one job is to get his midfield right. He would likely trade his entire midfield roster for the likes of one of Eden Hazard, Yaya Toure, or Mesut Ozil – all top players for title contending teams. Likewise for Juan Mata, Oscar Aaron Ramsey, Santi Cazorla – you get the picture. In the midfield, Manchester United is playing from a deficit. The discourse coming from Old Trafford has to change. It cannot be about moral victories. Executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward saying United will remain strong financially without winning trophies sends the wrong message. The expectation is winning, not profit. The league is becoming clearer: Arsenal, Manchester City, and Chelsea are clear title threats. Liverpool, Everton, and Spurs are in the second tier. Is United better than the aforementioned three? Certainly not based upon form. This is the challenge for United and their new manager. These may be early days, but its gut-check time. A suspended Wayne Rooney Saturday doesnt make matters any easier. The team has responded before. Will they respond this time around, for this manager? Other Musings - Luis Suarez is on a run for the ages, scoring 13 goals in nine games this season. The bite seen around the world and the summer of discontent seems to be a distant memory. But this is Suarez were talking about. Dependability is not his middle name. One has to wonder what is his value now? Liverpool famously rejected Arsenals audacious bid of just over £40 million. What is Barcelona or Real Madrid offer £80 million? Can Liverpool afford to lose him, no matter the price? Qualifying for Champions League is massive for the short-term future of the club. And could very well determine if Suarez continues on at Anfield. - After just 90 seconds Wednesday, Niklas Bendtner scored his first Arsenal goal in 1,005 days. In very Bendtner like fashion, he later missed an absolute sitter. Can Arsene Wenger afford not going into Januarys transfer window to buy another striker? Or can Theo Walcott and Lukas Podolski be decent enough options, providing cover for Olivier Giroud? The decision could be the difference between winning the league. - Andre Villas-Boas outburst at the press doesnt bode well for the Spurs manager. The Portuguese manager has bigger fish to fry than petty public spats with those who cover the team. Finding requisite width and appropriate attacking formation tops his to-do list. The lack of influence through the wing positions despite worlds of talent is troubling. Two late goals at Craven Cottage spared his blushes. Maintaining focus is paramount. AVB has the players. Time to bring it all together. - Southamptons dream run has been derailed for the time being. A difficult stretch has seen the team lose their top goalkeeper and concede eight times in their last three after giving up just five in their previous 11. It doesnt get any easier, with games against top teams Manchester City, Newcastle and Spurs in their next three Twitter - @WheelerTSNEmail - email@example.com
. . You can watch all the action on TSN and TSN GO beginning at 8:30pm et/5:30pm pt. Minnesota dropped the first two tests of this best-of-seven set at Chicagos United Center and was outscored by a combined 9-3 margin in those setbacks. However, the Wild righted themselves at home by taking Game 3 by a 4-0 count before knotting the series at two games apiece with Fridays 4-2 triumph at Xcel Energy Center. . The result left Betis nine points from safety with 10 rounds to play. Elche edged four points clear of the relegation zone with its sixth straight home game without a loss. . Tyson Barrie scored in the final minute of regulation, and then scored again in the shootout, leading Colorado to a 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers on Thursday night.One day after a public tongue-lashing from his head coach and a post-game meeting with the general manager, Ottawa Senators captain Jason Spezza was adamant that his teammates are all on the same page as their frustrated management group. Following a lopsided 5-2 loss against the New Jersey Devils on Wednesday night, Paul MacLean told reporters that "theres a lack of focus, theres a lack of leadership and theres a lack of preparation" with his struggling team. That came on the heels of Bryan Murray taking the unusual step of going into the locker room at the Prudential Center and addressing the players himself. "I think hes been disappointed all along. I think hes been disappointed with the group right from the onset of the season. I think it was just him letting us know that its not acceptable how were playing," Spezza said of Murrays meeting with the players. "Theres no ultimatums and theres no threats, but there is a definite understanding that if we dont start playing better, it could be you the one being out the door. It could be any one of us and when you dont win, thats what happens. We put ourselves in this situation and were the only ones who can get ourselves out of it. We understand thats part of the game." MacLeans pointed criticism of the leadership core had many wondering if there was a disconnect between the head coach and the captain. But heading into Thursdays game against the Florida Panthers, Spezza wanted to make it blatantly clear that he had no issues with MacLean. "No - our coaches are good coaches and weve always liked playing for them. Im sure theyre getting frustrated by us and that may lead to some of the frustration and some of their remarks," Spezza explained. "But we believe in what theyre preaching to us and Mac is a good hockey man and he understands. Were probably more frustrated than him as players out there playing. But he goes home and its frustrating for him to figure out why he cant get us to go." Spezza has become accustomed to being a lightning rod for criticism in this market, but this is his first season as captain of the hockey club. He insists he is not uncomfortable being the scapegoat on many nights this season. "Whenever youre not winning, you start looking at the top down. As being the captain, it gets reflected on me first and I have to find a way to get our group more consistent and I have to find a way to get my own game consistent," said Spezza. . "When things go wrong you look at the top down. And its always been that way in sports." When asked about his attack on the leadership group from the previous night, MacLean made sure to include himself in the group of people who need to improve. "For me, leadership is everyone. Its myself, its my coaching staff, my training staff and its every player in the room. Jason Spezza, Chris Phillips and Chris Neil are the representatives of the leadership of our team, but theyre not the only guys," MacLean said on Thursday. "Everyone is accountable and everyone has to provide leadership on a daily basis and we havent done that as a group. Theyre representatives of it, so they do most of the talking about it, but its not just them. Yes, they need to be better, but every one of us has to better." Spezza has yet to record a goal this month, a drought that has now extended to 12 games. He has been a consistent offensive producer during his career, but has watched his numbers decline so far this season with 28 points in 35 games. The 30-year-old says he is making some adjustments to his game to try and be more of a two-way player, which could explain the decline in his offensive statistics. "Im trying to change my game. Im trying to play in more straight lines, Im trying to drive the net more and doing some things that take away from my offense a little bit," said Spezza. "We feel that in the long run its the best way to play and its the best way to help the team. The more comfortable I get playing that way, the better our team will be." For his part, MacLean acknowledges his captains adjustments, but still expects more. "For Jason, weve asked him to make changes to his game to a more complete game and a more 200-foot game," said MacLean. "And when you go through changes to your game, the offensive side of it a lot of the time suffers. And I think hes starting to get through that. He created some opportunities last night and some previous games. Were seeing an improvement in it, but wed like to see it speed up a little more than it has. But its a process that takes time and we have to be willing to be patient with it. But at the same time, we need him to be better – especially in the power play situations." ' ' '