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26th Feb 2022

“We absolutely battered them” – Alex Ferguson gives Real Madrid reminder as statue unveiled

Patrick McCarry

Alex Ferguson

And so began a long sporting rivalry.

Back in May 1983, over at the Ullevi stadium in Gothenburg, Alex Ferguson led his Aberdeen side to a European Cup Winners’ Cup final victory over the mighty Real Madrid.

Both sides had come through thrilling quarter finals – Aberdeen beating Bayern Munich and Real seeing off Inter Milan – before having a handier time of it in the semis. The Spaniards went into the final looking to add to a trophy haul that was headlined by 20 La Liga titles and six European Cups.

The Dons were on the up, but their 1980 Scottish league win was on the second in their long history. Ferguson had delivered that, two years into his reign at Pittodrie, and was looking to bring home the club’s first ever European trophy.

At the unveiling, this weekend, of a statue in his honour, at Pittodrie, Alex Ferguson paid tribute to all that helped him to a period of success at the club – 10 trophies in eight years, including four league titles – that has not been touched since.

Alex Ferguson pictured in his Aberdeen club, in 1983. (Photo by David Cannon/Allsport/Getty Images)

“We battered them” – Alex Ferguson on Cup Winners Cup Final

“What I achieved here at Aberdeen was almost a miracle,” Alex Ferguson reflected.

“I think that final, some people regard it as a miracle. But, you know what, we battered them. We absolutely battered them.”

In that 1983 final, Aberdeen started like a train. They had already hit the frame of the Real Madrid goal before Eric Black put them 1-0 up. Real Madrid levelled up, not long after, after an under-hit back pass from Alex McLeish saw goalkeeper Jim Leighton rush from his goal, only to concede a penalty that Juanito dispatched.

With Peter Weir and Gordon Strachan running riot, Real goalkeeper Augustin kept his side in the tie as the final went to extra time. The Dons were the better of the two sides and it was John Hewitt’s header that won them the match. The Scots were the better side, but ‘absolutely battered them’ may be pushing it a tad.

Ferguson would go on to manage seven times against Los Blancos in his career, winning two, drawing two and losing three games.

Ferguson, who went on to win 13 Premier League titles with Manchester United, said ‘no man could have had a better start to his managerial career’ than he enjoyed at Aberdeen [although he did coach at East Stirlingshire and St Mirren before]. He joked about how he and three assistants won Aberdeen a major European trophy – “Nowadays, every club has about 40 staff!”

The 80-year-old also offered up some insight into how his 1986 move to United came about. He commented:

“There was only one way I could have left Aberdeen, and that was for Manchester United.

“And [former Dons chairman] Dick Donald, actually told me to leave. I took the Scottish team to Mexico [for the World Cup] and before I left, I said to Dick, ‘I think I’ve had my time here’. He said, ‘There’s only one team you should leave here for, and that’s Manchester United‘.

“I don’t know if he knew anything at the time, but it was the best advice I ever got. I had a fantastic time there too.”

From 1978 to 2013, Alex Ferguson led Aberdeen and United to a combined 17 league titles, 14 domestic cups and six European trophies. Certainly deserving of a statue, or two.

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