Sir Alex Ferguson Aberdeen statue unveiling: 'You know what, we battered them ... these boys wanted to go to the moon'

It wasn’t a secret, even if it was shrouded in a red silk veil. Everyone knew why they were inside Pittodrie at 12pm on Friday afternoon.

“Fergie”.

The wind blowing across the front of the Richard Donald stand lifted the covers just a little, enough to reveal the inscription on the plinth where the lasting tribute to Aberdeen’s, and quite possibly football’s, greatest ever manager will stand.

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The statue of Sir Alex Ferguson, commissioned in tribute to his eight-year spell at Pittodrie, was later unveiled by the special guest himself – revealing his bronze likeness celebrating the 1980 league championship, his first of three in Scotland clinched with a convincing win over Hibs, before another 13 titles with Manchester United.

Sir Alex Ferguson unveils the statue during at Pittodrie, on February 25, 2022. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“What I achieved here was almost a miracle and some people regard it a miracle – but you know something – we battered them, absolutely battered them," Ferguson said to a roar of approval from the nostalgic, enthralled audience.

Former players spoke of secret of his success, and the fans made no secret of their admiration for, and appreciation of their former manager.

They were there to see his bronze statue but appreciative Dons fans lined up for the man himself arriving and departing his old haunt, an affinity Andy Edwards aimed to capture within his sculpture – “something that expresses that joy, the salutation and relationship and the rapport between the manager and the fans. [We wanted] to bring that back from Easter Road on that incredible day following the 5-0,” he said.

Affection was in full effect at Pittodrie. From the players, from the fans and from Ferguson himself, acknowledging the honour, and the warmth of the turnout for the sun-bathed ceremony which lasted 45-minutes, plus Fergie-time, naturally.

Sir Alex Ferguson was guest of honour for his statue unveiling. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

Plans for a lasting marker of the Dons hero have been a long time in the making. Sir Alex now stands, arms outstretched and grinning outside the Richard Donald stand – the tribute's semi-permanent placement until the future home of the club is decided.

Further are planned of more red legends – but they began with perhaps the greatest of all, at the start of it all. Few will have records to stand alongside his tenure – Aberdeen’s most successful, breaking an Old Firm dominance in the league and ushering in a New Firm era with Dundee United which will be rekindled and remembered on Saturday when they meet again and the man himself will be the special guest of honour – both inside the ground, and out.

Many of the players who helped him achieve his success and ten trophies also returned to pay their own tribute. Ferguson remembered them all after a video montage recalled his highlights throughout the 1980s.

“The thing about human beings is, some people want to go the moon for their holidays and other people are happy going to the local park,” said Ferguson.

Sculptor Andy Edwards (centre) during a Sir Alex Ferguson Statue unveiling ceremony. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

“These boys wanted to go to the moon. They had the desire to get better and better and that gave me the incentive to work with them.

“They understood that other clubs want to win trophies so you have to want to win it more than they do. You have to have more desire to be successful because that’s the thing that will get you there.”

It is bronze in substance but it reflects a silver-laden period in Aberdeen’s history. Ferguson will now have a lasting presence at Aberdeen, as well as his lasting legacy. The cheers that greeted his arrival, his montage and appearance, to the warm words from his former players all held a common theme – winning.

"He wanted to overcome the Old Firm and that was up right up my street,” said his captain Willie Miller. “That was always an ambition of mine.

Former players Willie Miller, Neil Simpson and Gordon Strachan during Sir Alex Ferguson's statue unveiling ceremony at Pittodrie, on February 25, 2022, in Aberdeen, Scotland. (Photo by Mark Scates / SNS Group)

"That was my impression of Sir Alex, that he wanted to overcome the Old Firm, start to win trophies and, my God, did we do that.

“There was a lot of hard work put in before that title win, but I think lifting the title was the big trophy to win. That gave us the confidence and the belief that we could do something special.”

"We all thought we were competitors, winners. Then we realised we weren’t really. We were kind of a bit petulant and we just talked about winning,” said Gordon Strachan.

“Then you meet someone [like Sir Alex] and you realise that he’s serious about this. We were kind of floating through life thinking: ‘football’s great, I’ll get to 32 and open a fish and chip shop or a bar. But football — and life — is about much more than that. It was about winning and it was all about your teammates. Never let your teammates down or your family when you are playing. That’s the two things I got from him. You can have a bad game but never let them down.

“Once we had won that first trophy, the league, you think: ‘I’ve only been playing at this until now. This is what football is all about — winning things.”

"If you weren’t a winner you weren’t part of that squad,” added Neil Simpson, who Ferguson gave a debut to in 1980. “Myself and all the players who played under him owe a big gratitude for giving us opportunities, seeing things and as Gordon said the professionalism, the real desire to win which is all we want to do in football – no-one is interested in losers.”

And 36 years since he left Aberdeen, everyone is still interested in Sir Alex Ferguson.

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