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CONNECT THE WORLD

Alex Ferguson To Retire After Season; Amanda Berry, Gina DeJesus Homecoming

Aired May 8, 2013 - 16:00   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


FIONNUALA SWEENEY, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: It's game over for Sir Alex Ferguson is one of football's greatest managers prepares to hang up his boots.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: I'm in Manchester with a look at who can follow in Fergie's footsteps.

SWEENEY: And also ahead, joyful reunions as three women held captive for a decade are back home.

And from inside Damascus, a look at whether diplomacy still has a chance in Syria.

ANNOUNCER: Live from CNN London, this is Connect the World.

SWEENEY: It is the end of an era as perhaps the most famous football club on the planet. Sir Alex Ferguson is stepping down after more than 26 years as manager of Manchester United.

Pedro Pinto is outside the club's stadium Old Trafford. He's not the only journalist I know. It's really hard to overstate the emphasis and the impact of this kind of announcement from Alex Ferguson because Pedro as we know even non-football fans, people with no interest in football whatsoever know that name.

PINTO: You're absolutely right. And he's so much more than a manager. He's an icon. He's a living football legend. And considering the Premier League is the most popular league competition on the planet, he is famous everywhere from Africa to Asia to the Middle East. Everybody knows Manchester United. And of course everybody knows their manager.

It's been a crazy day. We found out early in the morning in London. We hoped on a plane here with the crew to come up to Manchester. And we've been here all day trying to get the latest reaction.

I can tell you that Sir Alex Ferguson has built quite a name for himself during his 26 plus years at Old Trafford. Let's take a closer look at his career.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ALEX THOMAS, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: Sir Alex Ferguson, it's a name synonymous with British football. While his career began as a player in Scotland in 1957, it wasn't until Ferguson stepped off the pitch and became a manager that his path to football royalty began. And he earned his status, Ferguson arrived at Old Trafford in 1986 to replace Ron Atkinson. Manchester United were languishing near the bottom of the Premier League at the time.

Four years later, the club was still battling and fans wanted him sacked. But by 1993 he's won their hearts again after steering the Red Devils to the English Premier League title, their first championship trophy in 26 years.

He'd had his first major taste of success and wanted more.

In the past 26 years, he has won over 30 trophies. Among the top prizes in his cabinet 13 Premier League titles, 5 FA Cups, 4 League Cups, and 2 Champion's League titles.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: You start to think how -- now how has he done it personally? And I've been as close to him as anyone, really. But I still don't know all the things, you know, that's in his mind. He is a genius.

THOMAS: And a star maker -- David Beckham, Ryan Giggs, Wayne Rooney and Christiano Ronaldo were all among his proteges.

CHRISTIANO RONALDO, REAL MADRID MIDFIELDER: He's like a father for me in the football, because he teach me many things, you know, and I really miss him, because you know I have a great relationship with him.

RYAN GIGGS, FOOTBALLER: The manager, you know, promises success and he delivers. He promises to new players when he signs them that they're going to win things. You know, that he's a winner. And for a football player that's what you want to be, you want to be on a winning side.

RONALDO: That desire to be on top remained uncompromising, even as Ferguson approached his 70s.

ALEX FERGUSON, MANCHESTER UNITED MANAGER: I think retirement is for young people, because they can do something else. When you get to my age, then if your health is good you (inaudible) your work.

THOMAS: Indeed, a year later that dedication paid off. In 2011, when Manchester United won the championship for a 19th time, they surpassed archrivals Liverpool as England's most successful ever club. If there was ever doubt about Ferguson's place in history before, this was the title that cemented it.

At Old Trafford, that now remains a titanic pair of shoes to fill.

Alex Thomas, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINTO: We heard there from Christiano Ronaldo who calls Sir Alex Ferguson a father figure. And there's no doubt he had a huge impact on all the players he managed. Earlier I caught up with Mark Hughes who played for United a few years ago. The striker told me about the impact he made on his career.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

MARK HUGHES, FRM. MANCHESTER UNITED FOOTBALLER: When everybody woke up this morning I think it was one of shock I think initially, but I think as the day has gone on I think you look at the timing of it and you think, well, maybe it's perfect timing because of the success that they have this year taken the league title back from Manchester City, which I think was vitally important for Sir Alex. And you look at it and you think well maybe it does make sense. It's probably a little raw at the moment for everybody, but invariably Sir Alex gets the big decisions right and possibly he's got this one right as well.

PINTO: What made him special? Ho would you describe him having spent so much time with him in the dressing room during matches before, after matches. A lot of people say, obviously, he's very charismatic, intimidating even, what's your take?

HUGHES: He's definitely intimidating as a player. When he came in the dressing room, he's very adept at making his feelings known and if you were in his eye line and you did upset him then you very quickly knew about it. So he had real drive, real desire. That will be no surprise to anybody. And he just understood the significance of the responsibility he had of being manager of Manchester United. And he'd give that to the players as well, because he made them and he made them know in no uncertain terms that to play for Manchester United came a responsibility to win games, to win trophies and to play well.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PINTO: Mark Hughes who played under Sir Alex Ferguson for several seasons at Old Trafford and someone who I'm sure learned a lot of traits that he's used in his managerial career. A lot of former players under Ferguson have turned to coaching like Roy Keane, like Steve Bruce and many others. So there's no doubt that this is a man that can talk about more than just results and trophies, Fionnuala, he can talk about the impact he has made in the game.

SWEENEY: Impact in the game, impact around the world. We'll go back to you, Pedro there in Old Trafford later in the program.

And when I say impact around the world not only in football, Manchester United says it has a mind boggling 659 million fans around the world and half of those are in Asia. And here's what a few are saying.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: It's a sad day for football. He's been in the Premier League, he's been in the English league for 25 years now. He's won 38 trophies during his time. I don't think there's going to be a manager like him in the future.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I am confused a little after learning the news. Actually, I wanted him to stay three more years as there are more European titles he wanted.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE (through translator): He helped Manchester United win so many prizes. It's a shame that he retired.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE (through translator): I just learned that news and I am shocked. There were rumors that Ferguson was looking for a successor. Who will that be?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think it will be a great loss for Manchester United. And to lose a person like, say, Alex Ferguson something which we did not expect so soon. And really I foresee maybe a little bit a struggle for Manchester for the coming maybe few games until maybe the person who will be in charge will know what is expected from him and maybe do wonders for Manchester United. But it will take him time to emulate Sir Alex Ferguson.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: Well, there's plenty of reaction to this on social media as well. Take a look at our Twitter tracker and the conversation around the hashtag #thankyousiralex and related terms is coming from around the world. Twitter says there were over 1.4 million mentions of this story on their site in the first few hours it broke.

Footballer have also been showing their respect for Fergie. David Beckham took to his Facebook page to leave the tribute to his former manager saying in part, "the boss wasn't just the greatest and best manager I ever played under, he was also a father figure to me."

On Twitter, former Manchester United player Michael Owen says, "it's just not sinking in. Manchester United with no Sir Alex just doesn't feel right."

And the British Prime Minister David Cameron called Alex Ferguson's achievement exception, adding "hopefully his retirement will make life a little easier for my team Aston Villa."

Stay with us, we'll have much more on this story for you after the break, including a look at who is coming next. Who would be the safest pair of pants to run a multibillion dollar sporting empire? We'll go in search of those answers after the break. And also ahead, 10 years of never giving up hope ends in a joyful reunion. Two of the three women abducted in Cleveland in the United States are spending their first night back home.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

SANDRA RUIZ, GINA DEJESUS' AUNT: There are not enough words to say the joy that we feel for the return of our family member Gina. And now Amanda Berry, the daughter and Michelle Knight who is our family also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: And we've learned when we will hear of charges for the men accused of kidnapping them. We'll be live in Cleveland, Ohio with details.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SWEENEY: The Manchester United money machine is valued at just over $3 billion on the New York Stock Exchange. Last year the club warned investors, quote, "any successor to our current manager may not be as successful as our current manager. For now, the time has come to try and replace the most successful manager British football has ever seen."

You're watching CNN. This is Connect the World with me, Fionnuala Sweeney. Welcome back.

Well, this is how Manchester United shares fared today. Shortly after that announcement that Alex Ferguson was retiring as manager the stock sank below $18 a share. It managed to pair some of those losses to end the session down almost 2 percent.

Pedro Pinto, as we know, is in Manchester. He joins us now with more. Now a lot of the talk turning to the succession. There had been some expectation it might come today. What are your thoughts on when it might come, this announcement. And who might it be, Pedro?

PINTO: Well, from what we understand, the announcement could come in the next 24 to 48 hours. And speculation has it that the manger who will take over from Sir Alex Ferguson will also have a Scottish accent. It's David Moyes who is currently the manager of Everton. He's spent the last 11 season there. And the feeling here at the club is that he shares a lot of the same values as Sir Alex Ferguson and he believes in youth development, he believes in teamwork, and he believes in a pure culture of football.

Let's find out a little bit more about the man who may succeed Sir Alex.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

THOMAS: He hasn't won a single trophy in more than a decade as manager of Everton Football Club, but there are plenty of reasons why David Moyes is viewed by many as the natural successor to Sir Alex Ferguson at Manchester United.

The were both raised in blue collar areas of Glasgow, Scotland and both have a reputation as hard workers. Like Ferguson, Moyes encourages the development of younger players and cares about the way his teams play, not just their results.

GARTH CROOKS, FORMER MANCHESTER UNITED PLAYER: Well, I think because David will understand the traditions of Manchester United. One, if you win you've got to win with a certain style. It's very important to the fans winning in the way they win. And I've played for that club, and I understand that.

THOMAS: Moyes was even interviewed to be Fergies assistant, but never got the job. However, the United boss has often expressed his admiration for the Everton coach, grudgingly pointed out last seaon's 4-4 draw between the sides partly cost them the Premier League title which went to local rivals Manchester City.

Although he hasn't won any titles, most football experts recognize that Moyes has excelled by simply keeping Everton among the leading group of teams in England's world famous Premier League on a fraction of the budget of most of the club's rivals.

DAVID MOYES, EVERTON MANAGER: Everton, you know, we've had (inaudible) will spend in not great amounts, keeping things as right as we can. And it's difficult for us at Everton as well.

THOMAS: At 50, he's the right age to enjoy a long and successful career at Manchester United even though it will almost be impossible for him to ever match Ferguson's huge trophy haul.

Alex Thomas, CNN.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

PINTO: Huge trophy haul and huge shoes to fill here at Old Trafford, no doubt about that. And when you talk about other candidates you have to mention names like Jose Mourinho who is currently available. But word on the street is, of course, that he's going to take over the Chelsea job again, so maybe it's a little too late for the Portuguese manager to come here.

Also, there's some worries that he's a little bit too confrontational, a little bit too turbulent as well to take over from Sir Alex.

Other names that have been mentioned, Jurgen Klopp, the Borussia Dortmund manager. Of course he's had a formidable campaign at Dortmund, leading them to the Champion's League final.

And what about Jupp Heynckes, even, the Bayern Munich manager who is also available? He's stepping down at the end of the seasons after leading the Bavarians as well in the title match in the European Cup at Wembley.

So plenty of speculation to talk about over the next few hours until the final name is announced, Fionnuala, but it is Moyes in pole position.

SWEENEY: We know, of course, that Alex Ferguson tried to resign back in 2010 I believe it was, and then changed his mind. Presumably, this is a far more choreographed announcement with the club in which he will remain director after he retires as manager.

PINTO: Yes. Yes, at least there seems to be a plan of what will happen next for him. So there has been an announcement as far as him staying at the club, being a director, being an ambassador. And believe me, he'll be very much involved with football matters as well. Whoever takes over will have Sir Alex tapping him on the shoulder and saying, hey, maybe you should go after that player, hey, maybe you should change your formation.

So, it's very important that whoever takes over has a good relationship with Ferguson and that's why Moyes, again, is the favorite.

Now Ferguson has, of course, talked about a long time stepping down. It's something that us sports journalists have kind of been preparing for, but it doesn't take away from the surprise of what happened today. And it doesn't take away from the challenge of the next manager who is going to take the next steps and try to make sure that Manchester United stays on the path of being not only a dominant force on the field domestically, but a dominant force in business, in marketing globally as well, Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: All right, Pedro, we leave it there for the moment. Plenty to talk about, though, of course. The focus at the moment on the suggestion of the Everton manager David Moyes taking over.

It is dividing opinion on Twitter. The British football pundit Gary Linekar tweeted, "I think David Moyes will be an excellent appointment for Manchester United, but an awful one for Everton."

Manchester United fan Dave Andrews agrees. On Twitter he says, "I think Moyes could be a could choice. He'll treat the club with respect and could work wonders with our squad."

Another fan Luke McKay completely disagrees saying, "with David Moyes we'll probably go down like we did in the 70s and 80s."

And finally another thought from a Man United fan Jason Solo tweeted, "the way I see it, Moyes is understandable, but you have to wonder if it's too big a club too soon."

We're live from London, this is Connect the World. And jurors in the United States have reached a verdict in the trial of this woman. More on the case which has gripped many Americans coming up.

Also, could a peace initiative for Syria be over even before it begins. An opposition coalition wants a key concession before entering talks with the regime.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SWEENEY: Just moments from now we are expecting a verdict in a trial that has gripped America. Jodi Arias is accused of killing her former boyfriend Travis Alexander. Prosecutors say she stabbed Alexander 27 times, slit his throat and shot him in the head in 2008. But defense attorneys claimed all along that Arias was a victim of abuse who acted in self defense.

A few days ago, CNN's Ted Rowlands talked to some of those who followed the Arizona trial to find out why they just couldn't stop watching.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

TED ROWLANDS, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Trelynda Kerr, a direct mail production manager in Washington, D.C. is hooked on the Jodi Arias trial.

TRELYNDA KERR, ARIAS TRIAL WATCHER: I'm addicted, I get home and I immediately turn my TV on, I turn my computer on.

ROWLANDS: Thousands of people around the country are watching this trial. Some are even showing up at the courthouse in Phoenix, like Kimberly McDonald who says she passed on a trip to Hawaii to see Arias in person.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I asked if he could instead take a road trip and come down here and get a ticket into the courtroom.

ROWLANDS: Marilyn Landis from Akron, Ohio dragged her husband into the courthouse from his baseball sprint training trip.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I watch it every day starting at 5:00 all night long.

ROWLANDS: Why do they watch?

KERR: I think it's just the manner of death. It's the whole toxic relationship between the two. It's the whole Mormon faith.

ROWLANDS: And of course, there's of course the graphic testimony.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: He's somebody that you cannot stay away from sexually, right?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

ROWLANDS: Nude photos, even phone sex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: No one would ever believe that they would record all these tapes sexually and the pictures.

KERR: It is graphic and quite frankly I tweeted about that, I said I needed to take a shower after I heard some of it.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You've got some new information just in. What do you got?

ROWLANDS: Ratings are way up for CNN's sister network HLN, which is not only carrying the trial gavel to gavel, but providing near constant analysis going so far as building this replica of the bathroom where Travis Alexander was killed.

JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, HOST, HLN'S "JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL": It's sex. It's the attractiveness of the defendant. It's the salaciousness of the testimony. This case has it all.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Orenthal James Simpson, not guilty of the crime of murder.

ROWLANDS: This, of course, isn't the first trial to draw high ratings. There were three O.J. Simpson trials, Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson and most recently Casey Anthony.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: This is a real good one. Casey Anthony did not have this.

ROWLANDS: Casey Anthony did have a dramatic ending, being found not guilty which sent some trial watchers into his hysterics.

The verdict in this case is expected at some point later this month, when it does come, thousands, make that hundreds of thousands of people, like Trelynda Kerr will be tuning in to find out what happens.

Ted Rowlands, CNN, Phoenix, Arizona.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SWEENEY: Tuning in to watch that verdict which we're expecting in the Arias case in just about 10 minutes or less from now. We'll bring it to you, of course.

But staying in the United States, there are scenes of jubilation in Ohio. Two of the three women rescued from a decade of captivity finally came home. Amanda Berry and Gina DeJesus returned to their families as well as cheering crowds. Meanwhile, police are readying charges against the men accused of holding them captive. And we're expecting new details this very hour from the authorities. So let's cross over now to Cleveland where Poppy Harlow joins us by phone.

This is a very fast moving story, Poppy, but first of all let's talk about this homecoming.

POPPY HARLOW, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi there, Fionnuala.

An amazing homecoming, a wonderful moment for the DeJesus family, for Amanda Berry's family, both of those girls disappeared about 10 years ago are now back with their families in their homes. We saw both of those homecomings unfold over the last few hours this afternoon here in Cleveland. I'll tell you first about Amanda Berry who returned to her sister's house today where they have been waiting 10 long years for her. Cheers and jubilation outside. Lots of excitement. People -- neighbors, friends, media surrounding the house, waiting to see this homecoming.

We did not hear from Amanda Berry, she did not make a statement. But we did hear from her sister Beth who spoke -- Beth Turano (ph) spoke with the media very briefly about her sister Amanda. Listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RUIZ: There are not enough words to say or express the joy that we feel for the return of our family member Gina. And now Amanda Berry, the daughter and Michelle Knight, who is our family also.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

HARLOW: My apologies, you just heard from Sandra Ruiz who is the aunt of Gina DeJesus, the other young woman who returned home today after disappearing nine years ago. That was her aunt speaking in a press conference outside of the family home welcoming their daughter back. Again here the homecoming for Gina came just about an hour after the homecoming for Amanda.

You can hear people chanting Gina, Gina, Gina, surrounding this home where Gina grew up, where her family told me they never gave up hope of finding her.

Her aunt spoke as you just heard. Her mother, Nancy and her father Felix also spoke to the press for the first time since their daughter was discovered. The mother Nancy saying I want everybody to know that the three of them, the three girls, are doing great. The father saying I never gave up hope, also calling on neighbors to help to keep an eye out for children in this area, in this neighborhood to always be aware of what's going on around them. And the father, Felix, also speaking about faith and saying that he spoke with his (inaudible) about not giving up in god and not, you know, knowing all of the miracles that he says god can bring.

This is certainly a miracle for this family and also for Amanda Berry's family -- Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: Indeed, no question about that.

Poppy Harlow in Cleveland, Ohio. Thanks for that update.

The latest world headlines just ahead.

Plus, under attack, those were among the last words of the U.S. ambassador to Libya before he was killed in last year's Benghazi assault. Now U.S. lawmakers are hearing all about it today. We'll take you live to Washington.

And then the Syrian army deals a blow to jihadists linked with al Qaeda.

And, it's the end of an era for the Red Devils, coming up more analysis on the retirement of Alex Ferguson.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SWEENEY: This is CONNECT THE WORLD. The top stories this hour. The UN envoy to Syria calls it the first hopeful news concerning that very unhappy country in a very long time. Lakhdar Brahimi is praising a new US- Russian peace initiative, but Syria's main opposition group doesn't appear receptive. It says it won't negotiate with the regime until Bashar al- Assad steps down.

The death toll from last month's building collapse in Bangladesh is now over 800. As the country grapples with cleanup efforts, new safety measures are being enforced. AFC reports that the government has shut down 18 garment plants. The textile minister says more plants will follow.

Kurdish militants are making good on a pledge that could help end one of the world's longest-running insurgencies. Fighters with the PKK, or Kurdistan Workers' Party, have begun withdrawing from Turkey. They're trekking to their stronghold in Iraq. It is the biggest sign yet that a fragile peace deal with Turkey is taking hold.

At least seven people are dead after a cargo ship smashed into a traffic control tower in the Italian city of Genoa. Four others are in hospital, two are still missing. There's no word yet on exactly how it happened.

An Italian court in Milan has upheld a tax fraud conviction of former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi. The court also upheld his four-year prison sentence and five-year ban from holding public office. Berlusconi has the option to appeal the ruling to Italy's highest court.

US lawmakers are taking another look at last year's attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya. Members of the US Congress have been listening to testimony today on how the Obama administration handled the aftermath of the September 11th assault in 2012 that took the lives of four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya.

Our world affairs reporter, Elise Labott, joins us now, live from Washington. Now, this was a subject that was very, very high on the news agenda in the American public consciousness last September in the run-up to the US election. Where does it stand now, and how is that being reflected there on Capitol Hill?

ELISE LABOTT, CNN FOREIGN AFFAIRS REPORTER: Well, Fionnuala, it kind of comes in dribs and drabs. After those explosive hearings, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton testified before she left office, there was a lot of interest.

It's kind of waned down, but the Republicans keep saying that they have unanswered questions, not only about how the administration handled security leading up to and the way it handled the night of the attack, September 11th, the Benghazi attack, but also how it referred to the attack afterwards in those talking points about whether it was a protest or whether it was a terrorist attack.

Now, one of the main witnesses was Greg Hicks. He was the deputy ambassador, the Charge d'Affairs after Chris Stevens was killed. And he spoke in very riveting detail about that night and about how he learned about what happened. Let's take a listen.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GREGORY HICKS, FORMER DEPUTY CHIEF OF MISSION CHARGE D'AFFAIRS IN LIBYA, US STATE DEPARTMENT: At about 3:00 AM, I received a call from the prime minister of Libya. I think it's the saddest phone call I've ever had in my life. He told me that Ambassador Stevens had passed away. I immediately telephoned Washington that news afterwards.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

LABOTT: And Fionnuala, Greg Hicks also had a lot to say about how he felt that more assets should have been sent, not only from Tripoli to Benghazi, but from military assets around the world to aid after the siege that he felt could have saved lives.

He also had a lot to say about how he thought that this independent accountability review board was a little bit of a whitewash, it let senior security officials off the hook who should have been held responsible.

And he has a lot of complaints about how he's been treated since the attack. He says that he has basically been persona non grata from the State Department and basically intimidated against testifying.

SWEENEY: All right, thanks for that update, there, on what's taking place in Washington, Elise Labott.

Let's get more on Syria, now. Opposition activists say the leader of a jihadist rebel group has been wounded in a shelling attack. The regime targeted al-Nusra fighters today near Damascus, so let's bring in Frederik Pleitgen. He is the only Western journalist reporting right now from the Syrian capital.

First of all, Fred, the internet is back on. It is still patchy, which is why we're talking to you by phone. What are we to make of these developments today?

FREDERIK PLEITGEN, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (via telephone): Definitely, you're absolutely right. The internet is back on. It was out for the better part of a day. It was very difficult. We got up early this morning and found that there was no communication whatsoever except for by phone, which was difficult to even get through there.

The internet then came back on in the afternoon today. The Syrian telecommunications company was telling us that apparently some sort of fiber optic cable had been damaged, and now, they've gotten that back up.

But you're absolutely right, there was massive shelling in the south of Damascus today. And actually I can see that area from my vantage point, we could hear that massive shelling. That apparently was the area where that al-Nusra Front leader, Abu Mohammed al-Jolani, was wounded earlier today.

We did see, I think, the actual artillery shelling that took place where he was wounded. There was a lot of shelling in the south of Damascus. And it really is part of a military campaign, especially in that part of Damascus, to try and retake some neighborhoods that they've lost in the past couple of weeks, Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: All right. And given events that have been taking place in Moscow, we know today that the Iranian foreign minister met Bashar al-Assad and talked in terms of their response and the Syrian response to the supposed Israeli airstrikes over the weekend.

What are we to make of the comments of the Iranian foreign minister? And are we seeing a distinct shift here on their part, as we seem to be seeing in Moscow?

PLEITGEN: Well, I'm not sure whether we're seeing a distinct part -- a distinct shift on the part of the Iranians. Certainly, of course, the Iranians and the Syrians were absolutely furious at that Israeli airstrike.

The Iranian foreign minister, as you said, met with Bashar al-Assad and also with Syria's foreign minister here in Damascus and basically said that he stands by the regime, and also said that no solution in Syria was going to happen that would be imposed by outside powers. Let's listen in to what Mr. Salehi had to say.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

ALI AKBAR SALEHI, IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER (through translator): We are optimistic about Syria's future. Thank God, Syria is on the right path, and victory will be with the Syrian people. We do not accept any solution -- the Syrian government and the Syrian people also won't accept any solution that is imposed from outside Syria.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

PLEITGEN: So, some very defiant words, there, I can tell you from speaking to ordinary Syrians who heard about these comments that were made by Sergey Lavrov as well as John Kerry and said they really think that this indicates some form of new hope.

There were two things that a lot of Syrians here in Damascus but also in other cities have been telling me, that they believe need to happen if there's going to be a political solution to this conflict. One of them is that Russia and the United States have to come together to try and make it possible.

And the other one is that the demand that was made by the opposition that Bashar al-Assad needs to step down before there can even be negotiations, that was something that would need to be dropped.

Now, with what John Kerry was saying there in Moscow, it appears as though the US is softening on that position and there could be negotiations without any preconditions. That is certainly something that people here in Damascus say they really think could really bring them forward, Fionnuala.

SWEENEY: All right. Particularly we know the US and Russia have agreed to hold an international conference on Syria. Frederik Pleitgen on the line from Damascus. Much appreciated.

Well, Britain's prime minister is also trying to keep up the momentum for a Syrian peace initiative. David Cameron says he'll travel to Russia on Friday to meet President Vladimir Putin. He says there's an urgent need for negotiations that can bring about a political resolution to the conflict.

So, let's get more now on the push for Syrian peace talks from a key opposition figure. Khalid Saleh is director of media for the Syrian coalition as well as a member of the Syrian National Council. Thank you for joining us from Istanbul. What do you make of events in Moscow this week?

KHALID SALEH, DIRECTOR OF MEDIA, SYRIAN COALITION: Well, I believe there is a slight shift in the Russian position. Russia have always stood very firm next to Bashar Assad, supported his dictatorship over Syria.

And I think the message that we're getting from Russia at this point, the press conference that Secretary Kerry and Mr. Lavrov held yesterday, we can see that the Russians are not holding firm to Bashar Assad. I think they're starting to accept the idea that future Syria will not have Assad as part of it.

SWEENEY: Part of Assad is part of it. Would you be prepared to have Bashar al-Assad remain in the country, even -- or a part of the country -- even if he wasn't in power?

SALEH: We've been very clear on this. The Syrian National Coalition welcomes any political initiative that meets the aspirations and the hopes of the Syrian people in establishing a democratic system, but a system that will not have Assad and the heads of the security apparatus that he's using right now to kill people as part of it.

What we -- I think what everybody in Syria will tell you that we want Assad to face a justice court in Syria, be held accountable for the over 75,000 people he killed in the last two years.

SWEENEY: All right. Here's my question, though. If the US and Russia are making progress, and Russia's always said there couldn't be a solution to the Syrian problem without their involvement, and if we see Britain's David Cameron going to Moscow on Friday, then are you, as the Syrian opposition, in a position where it may be difficult to impose a solution upon you, but can you withstand the pressure from a united international community?

SALEH: I believe the united international community is supportive of our role and our positions. Those are the clear messages that we're getting from the American side, from the British side, from the French side. And I believe the Russians are starting to come around.

The biggest challenge that we have right now is the continuous shipments of arms that the Assad regime is receiving from Russia. The arms and men that he's receiving from Iran and from Hezbollah. It's a terrorist regime that's been supported --

(CROSSTALK)

SWEENEY: OK. All right, with --

SALEH: -- by this organization --

SWEENEY: With all due respect, we understand the rest. We've got to -- if I may press you on this: if you're facing a united international community and despite the fact that your opposition has been recognized by more than 100 countries around the world, you -- your opposition is still fraught by internal divisions. How can you be a leverage against the weight of the international community if it looks like finally there's a deal on the table?

SALEH: I completely disagree with this assessment. First, the international community is supportive of us. We've been to London just two, three weeks ago, and they've been showing a tremendous amount of support. The messages that we've received in the last -- just the last two days, we have meetings the next couple of days with the US side, with the British side as well.

So, they've been very supportive of us. And the notion that we have divisions, that was acceptable about two years ago. The Syrian opposition has been tremendously united. We share a common goal, and we're working through that goal. We might have disagreements, but I think you have that with any opposition in the world.

SWEENEY: All right. Khalid Saleh, we'll have to leave it there. Thank you.

SALEH: Thank you.

SWEENEY: And live from London, you're watching CONNECT THE WORLD. Still to come, you can't ever lose control: the mantra of a man who never did. We'll take a look at Sir Alex Ferguson's legendary management style just ahead.

But first, not by air or on land, but by sea. What are we talking about? Well, we're talking about how Europe's biggest canal is offering a big bang for its buck. Next here on CNN.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

SWEENEY: Europe's leaders are fishing for new growth in central and eastern Europe. The Danube-Black Sea Canal is a trade lifeline for landlocked countries like Romania. The huge, manmade waterway offers a link to the sea and the outside world, and now with big investment, they're hoping to revitalize the river business. Becky Anderson gets onboard on this week's Gateway.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

BECKY ANDERSON, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): A convoy of six river barges on its journey along the Danube-Black Sea Canal carrying grain and scrap metal from Hungary.

Captain Costica Jireghie is at the helm.

COSTICA JIREGHIE, CAPTAIN, RIVER BARGE (through translator): It took almost seven days to get here from Hungary. This scrap metal is destined for Turkey or Cyprus, while grain is shipped to Israel or Arab countries. All this cargo has to reach the port of Constanta.

ANDERSON: Constanta in Romania trades on its Black Sea location. It also functions as a river port, both a destination and an origin for freight carried on the Danube, Europe's second-longest river. The canal plays a huge role in this.

The manmade, deepwater artery was built to open up a faster, more direct route to the Danube, all the way to the North Sea port of Rotterdam. I decide to take to the air to get a bird's-eye view of this stretch of water.

ANDERSON (on camera): The Danube-Black Sea Canal is the third-largest of its kind in the world. Now, it may not be as impressive as the Suez or the Panama, but at over 60 kilometers long, this is a crucial lifeline for landlocked countries in central and eastern Europe.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Construction came at a heavy price, but human and financial. In the 1950s, this was the site of labor camps in a Communist Romania. The canal officially opened in 1984, just when Costica's career began.

JIREGHIE (through translator): Things have changed a lot from 1984. Everything has changed dramatically. Ships are more equipped with technology. Navigation systems are more advanced.

ANDERSON: Technology may have improved, but the Danube has yet to reach its full potential. Many stretches of the river lack infrastructure and are difficult to navigate. Now, backed by an EU initiative, the goal is to invest along 14 countries of the Danube region.

ANDERSON (on camera): Let's talk about the Danube strategy, because the European Union sees that as absolutely intrinsic to its future growth.

TRAIAN BASESCU, PRESIDENT OF ROMANIA: Out of 2,300 kilometers of Danube, 1,075 kilometers belong to Romania. We already invest more than $300 million on the Danube using the European money from the period 2007 to 2013. And we will continue. It's vital not only for European Union, but even for Romania.

ANDERSON (voice-over): Traffic on the canal has been growing steadily for the past few years, reaching a record 31 million tons in 2012, only a third of its capacity. Quite a challenge for Romania and its European neighbors hoping to get the economy flowing along the Danube.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

SWEENEY: Breaking news, now, on the trial that's been generating headlines in the US for months, the trial of Jodi Arias. We are expecting a verdict now.

(SILENCE)

SHERRY STEPHENS, JUDGE, MARICOPA COUNTY SUPERIOR COURT: The clerk will read and record the verdict.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The state of Arizona versus Jodi Ann Arias verdict count one: "We the jury, duly impaneled and sworn in the above- entitled action upon our oaths do find the defendant as to count one first degree murder guilty.

(CRYING)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: "Five jurors find premeditated, zero find felony murder, seven find both premeditated and felony." Signed, the foreperson.

STEPHENS: Is this your true verdict, so say you one and all?

JURORS: Yes.

STEPHENS: Ladies and gentlemen, the clerk is now going to ask each of you a question. Please answer yes or no.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number one, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number two, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number three, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number four, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number six, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number seven, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number nine, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 12, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 13, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 14, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 16, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Yes.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Juror number 18, is this your true verdict?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes.

STEPHENS: All right, ladies and gentlemen. The next phase of the trial will begin tomorrow at 1:00. Please be here at 12:45. Between now and then, the admonition continues to apply. Do not speak about this case, do not view any media about this case. Are there any questions? You are excused.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Please stand for the jury.

SWEENEY: All right, so we have the verdict, there, in the Jodi Arias trial in the United States, which has been going on for quite some time now. It has galvanized a lot of the American viewing public, a lot of interest in this case in Arizona, where a jury has, after three days of deliberation, found her guilty of first-degree murder for killing her former boyfriend, Travis Alexander, in June 2008.

This is a packed courtroom with family and friends of the deceased and also supporters of Jodi Arias. This conviction means that she could face the death penalty. And so, in the next phase of the case that you heard the judge refer to, there, prosecutors will have a chance to present additional evidence, and jurors will then decide whether Travis Alexander's death was caused in a cruel manner.

Now, prosecutors allege he was stabbed 27 times, his throat was slit, he was shot in the head in 2008. Initially, she said that she was not guilty, but then she changed her defense saying that she had acted in self- defense, and her defense attorneys agreed with her that she was a victim of abuse who acted in self-defense.

So, there you can see the scenes. There have been -- media have packed this courtroom. Media has, indeed, been following this case very, very strongly over the last few months in the United States. There have been all sorts of questioning, massive coverage on US television.

And finally, this is the moment that the family and friends of Travis Alexander have been waiting for. And for them, they have found that this woman, Jodi Arias you see standing there in black as she's about to leave the courtroom, having been found guilty of premeditated murder.

Coming up after this short break on CONNECT THE WORLD, shock, surprise, and uncertainty. Manchester United fans are having their say on the retirement of Alex Ferguson, and we're back with that in 90 seconds.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

RORY MCILROY, PROFESSIONAL GOLFER: I think it's -- he's been the most successful manager ever, I guess, and -- yes, I think it was the right time. We --

(LAUGHTER)

MCILROY: -- we -- Man United won the -- they won the Premier League title this year by quite a way. It would've been great to contend in the Champions League a bit more.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

SWEENEY: Golf star Rory McIlroy there, declaring his fanship of Alex Ferguson, calling it a day. McIlroy was speaking in Florida ahead of the Players' Championship.

Well, reaction is, indeed, pouring in to the news that Alex Ferguson is retiring as manager of Manchester United. David Beckham says on Facebook that he wasn't just the best manager he ever played for, he was also a father figure.

And Ferguson will coach his last game on May 19th.

I want to bring Pedro Pinto back in from outside Manchester United's stadium, Old Trafford. This is really an extraordinary day, whether or not you were into football or otherwise, this was a man who'd actually been at the helm of a club, coaching a team, saw it rise but also during an ear when Sky and the Premiership came into being.

PEDRO PINTO, CNN SPORTS CORRESPONDENT: That's a great point, Fionnuala. The Premier League is the most famous football competition on the planet, I think, and it's been broadcasting globally longer than any other domestic league.

And that is why Ferguson is not only a celebrity here, so to speak, he is around the world, and everywhere Manchester United went on their pre- season tours, he was treated like a living legend.

This has, of course, had a huge impact all around the world. Manchester United fans in all corners of the globe have reacted to this. And let's get a little bit more reaction from the United States, a country that Ferguson went to a lot on those pre-season tours.

I can bring in live from the United States David Herman from the American Manchester United Club. David, thanks for joining us. First of all, tell us about the impact that this news had over in the States and what was your personal reaction as well.

DAVID HERMAN, MANCHESTER UNITED FAN: Well, it's still a bit of a shock to be awoken at 4:00 in the morning. It -- impending announcements aside, we knew that this day would come, but it still is a bit of a shock because we never thought he would ever retire, or he would just go kicking and screaming into the night.

And the inevitability of it also sort of gives us the -- the thing of what we've been able to -- taken for granted all this time that we had a -- a man and a manager who reflected everything that Manchester United was for as long as people have known this.

And like you said, transcending the Premiership to this, he's done everything his way, and I think that will be the irreplaceable thing that is difficult. We can replace a manager, but we can't replace the man.

PINTO: And finally and very quickly, in just three words, how would you describe him, his character?

HERMAN: Oh, it's -- engage, engaging, and passionate about life.

PINTO: I agree with that. David, thank you very much for your thoughts. We have to leave it there. Fionnuala, no question, the sun has set here at Old Trafford today. Will it rise with some answers tomorrow as to who will be his successor? We'll be waiting.

SWEENEY: And you'll be the one to tell us. Thanks, Pedro, there at Old Trafford. I'm Fionnuala Sweeney. That was CONNECT THE WORLD, thank you for watching.

END