Ferguson continues to receive hospital treatment following a brain haemorrhage last weekend but is out of intensive care after responding well to surgery.
The national coach has been in touch with Ferguson’s eldest son Mark, who relayed a message from his father back to McLeish which suggests the former Manchester United manager has lost none of his waspish humour.
McLeish, who played under Ferguson during Aberdeen’s glory years in the 1980s and was a key member of the side which defeated Real Madrid in the European Cup-Winners’ Cup final in Gothenburg in 1983, said: “We are obviously very close because of our working time together. We have kept in touch over the years. We have been kept up to speed [on Ferguson’s health] by his boys.
“When it was the [35th] anniversary of Gothenburg last week I texted Mark, the oldest one. I said: ‘Tell the gaffer: Happy Gothenburg Day!’ He texted back and said: ‘You’ll never believe it, I’m in the hospital with him right now. He’s asking about your passback!’
“I said: ‘Typical! What about my assist for Eric Black?’”
Aberdeen had taken the lead in the 1983 final through a close-range goal from Black after McLeish had won a header in the Real box. But the Spanish side equalised when McLeish’s short backpass was picked up by Santillana. The striker was brought down by Aberdeen goalkeeper Jim Leighton and Real were awarded a penalty which captain Juanito converted to level the game at 1-1.
John Hewitt scored the Dons’ winner in extra time for a remarkable triumph.