Considered one of the most successful football coaches of all time, Alex Ferguson became famous at the helm of Manchester United, between 1986 and 2013, with the conquest of 13 championships, 5 Cups, 4 League Cups and 10 English Super Cups, 2 Champions Leagues, 1 Cup Winners’ Cup, 1 European Super Cup, 1 Intercontinental Cup and 1 Club World Cup.
However, the success of the Scottish coach began to be written years before, at the service of a club in his country that lived in the shadow of Celtic and Rangers: Aberdeen. In addition to having led The Dons to win three (1979/80, 1983/84 and 1984/85) of the four national titles and four (1981/82, 1982/83, 1983/84 and 195/86) of the seven cups that the east of Scotland emblem has in its history, achieved European glory in 1983, with victory in the Cup Winners’ Cup .
On May 11 of that year, the Reds beat Real Madrid, 2-1, at the Nya Ullevi Stadium, in Gothenburg, in front of 17,804 spectators, of which 12,000 were from Aberdeen, with some having traveled to Sweden by boat. fishing, while others slept in the streets next to the stadium .
On a day of torrential rain, the pitch was covered by a tarp to protect it, having received the endorsement of the Italian referee Gianfranco Menegali, who determined that conditions existed to play. Aberdeen started to attack and Erick Black, who had been out of action for a month due to injury, put the Scots forward in the seventh minute, following a corner – during the celebrations, a fan collapsed and ended up dying .
The merengue captain Juanito equalized at 14′, with a penalty, punishing goalkeeper Jim Leighton’s foul on Santillana. The tie remained until the final whistle of regular time, leading the decision to extra time. With penalties already on the horizon, substitute John Hewitt (who replaced Black) scored the winning goal in the 112th minute, with a header, following a cross by Mark McGhee from the left .
Alex Ferguson and Aberdeen won their first European title, in what was the first European final for the club, the third in Scotland to reach the decisive game of an international competition, after the giants of Glasgow. “We took Real Madrid down. The only problem would have been if the decision had gone to penalties. That was my only concern because it would have benefited them,” said Ferguson, then 41. “After Real Madrid’s goal, we lost the north a bit. The whistle for half-time was the best thing that could have happened to us. After that, everything was very different. I think our forwards did a great job exploring the depth in the second half,” he added .
On the side of Real Madrid, played José Antonio Camacho – who 20 years later would become coach of Benfica – and on the bench was Alfredo Di Stéfano. In the end, the legendary Madridista figure praised the Scots’ performance: “They have what money can’t buy: soul, a team spirit built on family tradition”.
On the way to the final, Aberdeen eliminated Swiss side Sion in the qualifying round (11-1 aggregate), Albanian side Dinamo Tirana in the first round (1-0), Polish side Lech Poznan in the second (3-0), the Germans of Bayern Munich in the quarter-finals (3-2) and the Belgians of Waterschei Thor in the semi-finals (5-2).
After the Cup Winners’ Cup, the European Super Cup followed, in which Ferguson’s team beat Hamburg over two legs, with an aggregate of 2-0, in what was the last European title for a Scottish team .