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Updated on April 1st 2024, 3:29:36 pm

Aberdeen's European Glory Under Sir Alex Ferguson

Sir Alex Ferguson's crowning achievement was guiding Aberdeen to victory in the 1982-83 European Cup Winners' Cup, famously defeating Real Madrid in the final.

Key Takeaways:

  • Sir Alex Ferguson's tenure at Aberdeen marked a significant phase in his managerial career, setting the stage for his later success at Manchester United.

  • Despite initial struggles, Ferguson led Aberdeen to unprecedented triumphs, including the 1982-83 European Cup Winners' Cup, defying odds with a team primarily comprising Scottish players.

The greatest manager Manchester United has ever had, and arguably the most influential figure in the club's history. Sir Alex Ferguson's historic feats for the Red devils may never ever be repeated again, especially in the modern game when most of the managers are struggling to stay a club for more than a couple of seasons. His 27 years with Manchester United saw them win an astounding 38 trophies, which includes 13 Premier League titles and 2 UEFA Champions League trophies. To this day United fans still miss him, and they would undoubtedly be hoping for current United manager Erik Ten Hag someone to take them back to those glory days under Fergie. In this article we will be looking back at an earlier phase of Sir Alex Ferguson's managerial career, when the Scotsman was the manager of Aberdeen.

Early struggles

Ferguson joined Aberdeen in June 1978, replacing Billy McNeill. Aberdeen were one of the major Scottish clubs at the time, but they still only had one league title throughout their history. Alex Ferguson faced a difficult start to his managerial stint at the club, with one of the major factors being the inability to influence players due to Ferguson being just a bit older to most of them at the time. Aberdeen lost all domestic tournaments that season and also finished 4th in the League.

The beginning of success

The 1979–80 season saw the continuation of the previous season, as Aberdeen continued to perform poorly. However, a drastic change in form occurred in the new year and they began to win matches. Ferguson's team ended the season as League Champions, and it was the first time in 15 years that a team other than Celtic or Rangers won the league. Aberdeen began to enjoy even more success with Ferguson, as they later ended up winning the Scottish Cup in 1982 as well.

Ferguson's greatest achievement with Aberdeen

Victory at the Scottish Cup meant Aberdeen were a part of the 1982-83 European Cup Winners' Cup . Ferguson used a 4-4-2 formation for this tournament, and the entire squad had Scottish players.

Alex Ferguson (left) and Archie Knox with European Cup Winners' Cup in Gothenburg in 1983. Source: SNS

Jim Leighton was the goalie, and the back 4 included the likes of John McMaster, Alex McLeish, club captain Willie Miller, and Doug Rougvie. The midfield had Gordon Strachan and Peter Weir as the wide players, while Neil Simpson and Neale Cooper occupied the central areas. Eric Black and Mark McGhee were the striker duo of the team.

The likes of Stuart Kennedy, Andy Watson, John Hewitt, and Ian Angus were also important bench players of the squad.

One would presume such a team with no major European star in it would not progress much in a European knockout tournament. What following was one of the most magnificent tournament victories in football history.

Aberdeen had to beat Sion across 2 legs in the preliminary stage before qualifying for the first round of the tournament. They did so, destroying their opponents 11-1 on aggregate. The first round sound saw them overcome Albanian side Dinamo Tirana and Polish side Lech Poznań were beaten in the second round as well.

It was their shock victory in the third round however, that gave Aberdeen the belief that they can really go all the way in this tournament. The Scottish team went on to shock the whole football world as they defeated German giants Bayern Munich. Belgian side Waterschei Thor were the next victims as Aberdeen booked their place in the finals of the European Cup Winners' Cup.

The stage was set for the final, as Aberdeen were about to face their toughest test. Their opponents were none other than the greatest ever team in European Cup tournament history, the mighty Real Madrid. Alex Ferguson's men went on to achieve the impossible, as they beat the European kings 2-1 after extra-time to lift the European Cup Winners' Cup. The club later ended up winning the European Super Cup in 1983 as well, and Alex Ferguson eventually left the club as arguably their greatest ever manager in history.

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