Forty years ago today, Aberdeen FC achieved sporting greatness when they defeated the mighty Real Madrid in Gothenburg to lift the European Cup Winners’ Cup.
When they then beat Hamburg, the European champions, in the Uefa Super Cup, it was official: Aberdeen were the best team in Europe. And the person who lifted them to those dizzying heights was manager Alex Ferguson. Under his guidance, the likes of Gordon Strachan, Eric Black and John Hewitt became genuine world-beaters.
There are some who say Ferguson was merely “one of” the best managers in the world, someone to be ranked alongside the likes of José Mourinho, Jurgen Klopp and Pep Guardiola, but not necessarily above them. Manchester United’s extraordinary 13 Premier League titles during his time there – and the club’s inability to win one since – is often held up as the main sign of Ferguson’s achievements.
However, who among his rivals for the unofficial title of world’s greatest manager can claim to have overcome such enormous odds as he did in 1983? Guardiola, for example, has managed three clubs – Barcelona, Bayern Munich and Manchester City – and is widely hailed as one of the game’s greatest thinkers. But given the wealth of all three, can he honestly say his talents as a manager have been tested to the same degree?
Current Aberdeen manager Barry Robson seems to be doing a good job, but if he moves on, the opportunity will arise for Guardiola, Mourinho, Klopp and the rest to gamble their fine reputations and stake a claim to being truly the best. Until then, Aberdeen’s Gothenburg triumph still puts Ferguson above them all.