Scottish Premier League - Ferguson: The Aberdeen years

Sir Alex Ferguson has announced he will retire as Manchester United manager at the end of the season. Here we look at the start of his career in Scotland.

PA Sport
Premier League - 14 iconic images from Sir Alex Ferguson’s career
.

View photo

Alex Ferguson, left, and Archie Knox, right, celebrate winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup with Aberdeen

Fergie was in a rage, live on television moments after Aberdeen's 1983 Scottish Cup final victory over Rangers at Hampden.

"We're the luckiest team in the world," he said. "We were a disgrace of a performance. (Willie) Miller and (Alex) McLeish won the cup for Aberdeen. Miller and McLeish played Rangers themselves. They were a disgrace of a performance. And I'm not caring, winning cups doesn't matter. Our standards have been set long ago and we're not going to accept that from any Aberdeen team. No way should we take any glory from that."

Even then, long before he became King of Old Trafford, Ferguson was a hard man to please. His Dons side had just won 1-0 but their manager's outburst was all the more surprising, if not ridiculous, given that 10 days earlier Aberdeen had beaten Real Madrid 2-1 in the European Cup Winners Cup final in Gothenburg, to claim the first European trophy in the club's history.

The stunned Aberdeen players received an apology when their boss had calmed down but the rant, albeit in a perverse way, was a measure of how far Ferguson had taken the Granite City club since arriving at Pittodrie in 1978, following a managerial apprenticeship at East Stirling and St Mirren, where he had guided the Buddies to the Scottish First Division championship a year earlier.

For a spell in the 1980's Fergie broke the Old Firm's traditional domination of the Scottish game, helped by Jim McLean's wonderful Dundee United side. Aberdeen won the Premier League title in 1980, the first club other than Rangers and Celtic to do so in 15 years. The Dons went on to win the league twice more under Ferguson, in 1984 and 1985 and have not won it since.

Three successive Scottish Cup triumphs in 1982, 83 and 84 came before a fourth Hampden cup win two years later and the League Cup was garnered in the 1985/86 season. However, the pinnacle of his achievements at Pittodrie came in Europe.

In beating Real Madrid in that never-to-be-forgotten night of May 11, 1983, with goals from Eric Black and John Hewitt, Aberdeen became only the third Scottish team to win a European trophy and is arguably a greater achievement than anything he did at Manchester United. The Super Cup win over Hamburg surprised no one. That's how good Fergie's side were at the time.

Fergie's reputation as a strict disciplinarian was set in stone by then and his infamous 'hairdryer' treatment, so closely associated with his time in Manchester, had been practised to perfection with the Dons players, some of whom recall the best outbursts in their after-dinner speeches. And don't think his battle with referees began after he went south of the border.

Years before a series of United players from Roy Keane to Nemanja Vidic would routinely surround officials following a contentious decision, Ferguson had his Aberdeen players making sure their grievances, imaginary or real, were heard. After a brief spell as Scotland boss following the death of Jock Stein in 1985, while he was still Dons manager, Ferguson found the pull of Manchester United too strong to resist in 1986.

View photo

.

View comments (-30)