The Sport Matrix: Thursday 7 March 2013


Football: 'Unfit' Rooney in battle to save his United career

Wayne Rooney is fighting to save his Manchester United career, with his manager Sir Alex Ferguson's profound doubts about the player's approach to his work now a cause of daily tension between the two.

The decision by Ferguson, above, to exclude Rooney from the starting line-up for Tuesday's defeat to Real Madrid reflected the manager's view that the 27-year-old is not dealing with fitness issues he believes have been a problem since the start of the season.

United, against whom Uefa have opened disciplinary proceedings over Nani's red card – he is likely to receive a one-game ban – and the non-fulfilment of post-match media obligations following the 2-1 loss, face an imminent decision about Rooney's future this summer, when the forward enters the final two years of his contract.

The club cannot allow him to drift into the final year of a £250,000-a-week deal. Unless Rooney can repair his relationship with Ferguson, the manager will consider selling him for an offer above £20m.

Opinion: James Lawton

Danny Welbeck handsomely repaid Sir Alex Ferguson's confidence and, with Robin van Persie entrenched as the new main striker, Wayne Rooney, pictured, has surely never had a less certain future. MORE

Racing: Fry ready to do it his way at Festival

At the tender age of 26, Harry Fry will saddle a defending champion hurdler at Cheltenham on Tuesday. Last year at the festival he was an anonymous assistant to the champion trainer. MORE

Golf: McIlroy apologises for course walk-out

Rory McIlroy has admitted he was wrong to walk off the course at the Honda Classic last week. “There's no excuse for quitting,” he said. “It doesn't set a good example for kids. I feel I let a lot of people down and, you know, for that I am very sorry.” MORE

Windsurfing: Dempsey wins second world title

Britain's Nick Dempsey yesterday became the first man to win two world titles when he captured gold in Buzios, Brazil. The Olympic silver medallist beat Dorian van Rijsselberge. Britain's Bryony Shaw won a silver medal in the women's fleet.

Rugby Union: Brothers prepare for the Italian job

Billy Vunipola is in line for a first appearance on the England bench against Italy on Sunday, with brother, Mako, in line for a first start. Billy Twelvetrees, Danny Care, Tom Youngs and James Haskell are also tipped for inclusion. MORE

Cricket: Swann anxious ahead of surgery

Graeme Swann has admitted he is not looking forward to having to undergo elbow surgery in the US. “I will be relieved once it is done,” the England bowler said. “But I am a bit apprehensive at the minute because I don't like general anaesthetics.” MORE

Football: Defoe hopes to return with a bang

Spurs striker Jermain Defoe is determined to make up for lost time when he makes a first start in a month against Inter tonight. “I picked up an ankle injury and was a bit down,” the new father said. “You have to bounce back, come back stronger and help the team kick on.” page 50

Football: Luiz aims to restore English pride

David Luiz says Chelsea are determined to reclaim some pride for the English game when they take on Steaua Bucharest tonight. “It's important to show the Premier League is the best league in the world,” the Brazilian said. “The way to do that is to win titles.” MORE

Football: Celtic exit after Juventus defeat

Celtic went out of the Champions League at the last-16 stage for the third time in six years, Juventus winning 5-0 on aggregate. Alessandro Matri and Fabio Quagliarella scored to give the Italians a 2-0 win on the night. Elsewhere, PSG beat Valencia 3-2 on aggregate to join Juve in the last eight. MORE

Cricket: England start with a whimper in NZ

England endured a disastrous start to the second day of the first Test against New Zealand last night, losing three wickets in the first hour. Nick Compton (0) was bowled by Tim Southee before Alastair Cook (10) and Kevin Pietersen (0) fell in successive balls to leave the tourists on 18-3.