Fergie at 70: We shouldn”t forget the incredible job Manchester United boss did at Aberdeen
The plaudits will once again be ringing in Sir Alex Ferguson”s ears this weekend as the Manchester United manager turns 70.
It is truly staggering to think that a man who was winning trophies when the likes of Bill Shankly and Brian Clough were in their pomp is still adding to his amazing collection as we head into 2012.
Glorious: Ferguson celebrates after Aberdeen”s win over Hearts in the 1986 Scottish Cup final
One thing I”ve certainly noticed over the past few days is that nearly all the tributes focus on Ferguson”s work with United over the past quarter of a century.
That”s understandable, but we should also remember his managerial career before that. Those of us with longer memories still recall the quite magnificent job the Glaswegian did with Aberdeen.
Younger readers might be surprised to hear there was a time when football north of the border was about more than just Rangers and Celtic.
Aberdeen has always been a proud old club, but had only once won the Scottish league title, in 1955.
Ferguson left St Mirren to take over as manager in 1978, and was determined to bring the glory days back to Pittodrie. Within two years he led his new club to the Scottish title, winning by a point from Celtic. The Scottish Cup followed in 1982, with a thumping 4-1 win over Rangers in the final.
We”ve done it: Ferguson and Mark McGhee arrive back in Aberdeen with the European Cup Winners Cup in 1983
The Dons defended that trophy a year later, beating Rangers in the final again, but of all the fine wins and memorable matches, nothing would compare to that fabled night in the spring of 1983 in Gothenburg, when Ferguson”s men saw off Real Madrid in the rain to win the European Cup Winners” Cup.
The story of Ferguson giving Real Madrid manager Alfredo di Stefano a bottle of whiskey before the game has become part of football folklore. The legendary Jock Stein had told Ferguson to give Di Stefano the belief that Aberdeen were just happy to be there. Ferguson clearly learned something important that night, as subsequent events have shown how important he believes mind games to be at the highest level.
I can still hear Brian Moore screaming “Hewitt” from the commentary box now as Aberdeen claimed the most dramatic, and glorious, of extra-time wins against the Spanish giants.
What a moment: John Hewitt heads home his extra-time winner against Real Madrid in Gothenburg
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Unforgettable: Aberdeen players celebrate their European Cup Winners Cup triumph in 1983
In Ferguson”s final full season with the club, the Scottish Cup and League Cup were added to the collection. A remarkable nine major trophies in eight years for the man that has made winning something of a habit over the past few decades.
Ferguson made the journey south late in 1986 to begin his work at Old Trafford. But they”ll certainly never forget his brilliance in Aberdeen. Nor should we.