Sir Alex Ferguson had a weekend he will never forget after being given a hero’s welcome on his return to Aberdeen.
The man who led the Dons during their halcyon period of success between 1978 and 1986, unveiled a statue in his honour on Friday before returning to a Pittodrie on Saturday to watch his club face Dundee United.
A packed Pittodrie told the story before a ball had been kicked in the 1-1 draw as more than 18,000 filled the old stadium to salute the man Neil Simpson dubbed the greatest manager of all time.
The adulation was genuine and overwhelming but Sir Alex was already feeling the love long before he took his seat for Jim Goodwin’s first game in charge after being given a rousing welcome home for the statue reveal on Friday.
He told Red TV: “It has been very humbling to get that sort of reception.
“People talk about what I did at Manchester United but people who dig a bit deeper will recognise what I did here was beyond that.
“To overthrow the power Rangers and Celtic had for years and years – we dismantled that down to the ability, determination and ambition of myself, my staff and the players.”
Aberdeen’s success was unparalleled – even by Old Trafford exploits
Ferguson achieved even more success when he left the Dons for Manchester United in 1986, dominating English and European football in an incredible trophy-laden 26 years in England which brought 38 trophies.
But Ferguson is adamant what he achieved at Pittodrie is every bit as impressive.
He said: “Some writers in England have said themselves it was a bigger task here.
“When you go to Manchester United what you have got is an incredible history, a romance, and the biggest support in the world, there is no question about that.
“I remember going on my first trip to the Far East and there were thousands waiting for us. The bus couldn’t move.
“You come from a small town of Aberdeen with a population of 200,000; in my time it depended a lot on farming communities and families travelling in. We gathered a lot of good support from there.
“But Manchester United is worldwide.
“Living here was fantastic. My wife didn’t want to go to Manchester United. We have a lot of good friends here. Aberdonians are quite insular but they are very loyal when they get to know you.”
Memories of Pittodrie come flooding back
Sir Alex would not disagree at Pittodrie’s greatest night, the 3-2 win against Bayern Munich in the quarter-final of the Cup Winners’ Cup in 1983, being a cherished memory but a game that ultimately never was also stands out.
He said: “I always remember after the game in Munich I was the only one afraid of it. I feared the second leg as I said to myself ‘can we go two games without conceding against Bayern?’
“The atmosphere was fantastic. I remember a supporter remonstrating with the referee and a bit of his umbrella came flying off and landed at the feet of the referee. He was arrested.
“It was an innocuous, unintentional thing, and I remember him being marched past me when he turned to me and said ‘boss, I never did anything.’ I was sitting there thinking ‘what can I do?’ It was amazing.
“But one of our best performances came when we played St Johnstone in a winter’s game and it was an absolute gale.
“We shot against the gale in the first half and were 3-0 up at half-time. We were unbelievable but the game was abandoned.
“I always think what the score would have been with the gale behind our backs in the second half.
“People don’t remember that game but I do. The first half was unbelievable and there were periods where the team got that invincibility about them.
“We had Peter Weir on one side and Gordon Strachan down the other. They were absolutely fantastic.
“There were dozens of games where you thought ‘we need to turn up’ and we turned up.”