Sir Alex Ferguson has watched the European Cup Winners’ Cup final a few times since Aberdeen’s famous victory in Gothenburg 40 years ago.
And the legendary boss is less surprised at the outcome than the fact the match against Real Madrid lasted as long as it did before John Hewitt’s header secured their 2-1 victory and sparked wild celebrations inside the Ullevi Stadium and across the north-east of Scotland.
He told The Press and Journal: “We actually battered them, we played them off the park and it could have been five or six.
“How the game ever reached the stage where we were into extra time is one of the great mysteries of football. It would have been a tragedy if we had lost, because we were so much the better team on the night.”
In the build-up to the contest which led to thousands of Dons fans travelling to Sweden by boat, plane and ferry, most of the attention revolved around Real Madrid and their imperious record in European competition.
Sir Alex was confident
But Fergie had done his homework, every bit as meticulously as you might expect, and was convinced that his players had the ability to claim a historic victory.
He said: “After the second leg match against Waterschei (in the semi-final), I went to watch Madrid play the following night, and I phoned (Pittodrie chairman) Dick Donald afterwards and told him: ‘We’ve got a fantastic chance here.’
“Dick panicked a bit when I said that, and responded: ‘Och, don’t tell anybody else.’
“Then (assistant manager) Archie Knox went over to Spain to see them again, but there was a mix-up with the tickets and he only got in for the last 10 minutes. I said to him: ‘If we lose to them, it’s your f***ing fault’. But I didn’t mean it, of course.
“The fact is that the Aberdeen lads were very special, there was great character in the side, and they never thought they were beaten in any match.
“Everybody went on about the enormity of playing Real Madrid – and they’ve never lost another European final since 1983 – but, to our boys, this was the chance to go out and prove themselves, and they did.
“That was the thing about them. They had this terrific enthusiasm and they were playing for one another, for the club and the supporters.
“These opportunities don’t come along very often, but this was exactly what that Aberdeen team wanted; the chance to test themselves at the highest level.
“And they did themselves, their club and their city proud.”
Praise for Dick Donald
He said: “It was wonderful having the backing of a man like Dick Donald, who was capable of making a decision and sticking to it.
“He had a wonderful way.
“Before a cup final, he would say: ‘It won’t be the end of the world if we lose this one.’ It was his way of saying to me: ‘Don’t worry if you lose. Your job is safe.’
“Dick would just sit around the team hotel and watch what was happening. He was terrifically grounded.
“Chris Anderson was the balancing factor – a complete contrast to Dick. Looking forward all the time, he could see the way ahead for the televising of football.
“I may not always have agreed with his views, but he was exactly the kind of man we needed.
“He had big ideas for the club, wanted to promote it, and was a great supporter of the players.”
And, as for Willie Miller, nothing has changed in Ferguson’s eyes from those four decades ago when his skipper was hoisting aloft the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
“Willie was my mirror on the park, the best player to emerge in the 15 years from the early 1970s to the late 1980s. He had everything.” Ferguson said.
“I knew I could always rely on him.”