Classic cup clashes: Dundee United and Aberdeen to renew New Firm rivalry

A jubilant Alan Archibald wheels away in celebration after netting United’s first in a 4-1 Scottish Cup fifth-round win over the Dons in 2005. Stevie Crawford (right) also scored on the day.

For the first time in almost two years, Sunday will see two of the country’s fiercest rivals do battle when Dundee United travel to face Aberdeen in the Scottish Cup.

Unlike the heady days of the 1980s when the pair were evenly matched and their exploits earned them the title New Firm, their second-tier status means the Tangerines are now underdogs.

In the past, these north-east derbies were too close to call and produced epic clashes. We look back at four that more than lived up to the billing of ‘tie of the round’.

Legendary United boss Jim McLean confronted Aberdeen skipper Willie Miller in the 1988 clash.

January 7, 2006, Tannadice.

United 2 Aberdeen 3.

Last time United and Aberdeen met in this cup, Dons boss Derek McInnes was an unused sub for the Tangerines.

He must have watched open-mouthed as Gordon Chisholm’s team blew a comfortable half-time lead and crashed out.

David Fernandez struck twice and by the break it seemed to be all over.

Jimmy Calderwood’s Reds had other ideas and the second half saw two goals from Stevie Crawford drag them level before Barry Nicholson struck.

If it was raining goals on the pitch, it was punches that were almost flying off it as Calderwood and United assistant Billy Dodds almost came to blows.

Worse was to follow for the United management team. Four days later, Chisholm was sacked, and after one game as caretaker boss, Dodds also left.

February 27, 2005, Tannadice.

United 4 Aberdeen 1.

A Sunday date at Tannadice in the quarter-finals saw one of the best home performances during Ian McCall’s time as manager.

United had been struggling for much of the season but saved their best for the Scottish Cup and goals from Alan Archibald, James Grady and Stevie Crawford, who did so much damage in a red shirt in the aforementioned clash a year later, had them go 3-1 up by the break. Two minutes into the second half, Grady added No 4 and Arabs enjoyed a beautiful Sunday.

As United continued to fail in the league, McCall was dismissed and it was left to caretaker boss Chisholm to negotiate a path past Hibs in the semi-final before seeing the team narrowly fall at the final hurdle to Celtic.

April, 13, 1988, Dens Park.

Aberdeen 1 United 1.

The second game of what was an epic semi-final went down as one of the most infamous Scottish Cup ties ever, the ramifications of which rumbled on for weeks.

After a goalless first game, the rivals squared-up at Dens Park and the match erupted when United skipper Paul Hegarty was red-carded for a tackle on Charlie Nicholas.

United manager Jim McLean felt Nicholas had dived and the referee’s decision was influenced by Dons skipper Willie Miller. Incensed, McLean raced down to pitchside from the directors’ box and there were remarkable scenes at he confronted Miller as the teams came off at half-time — Nicholas also got an earful.

McLean was handed a £4,000 fine and a three-year touchline ban by the SFA and that prompted him to announced he was quitting. Walter Smith and Gordon Wallace were put in charge of the team before the board persuaded McLean to return to his duties. And, as for the semi-final, United fought to force a second replay and eventually won through to face Celtic in a classic final that saw them pipped right at the death.

April 17, 1985, Tynecastle.

Aberdeen 1, United 2.

United won through to the centenary final after a hard-fought replay victory over the Dons at neutral Tynecastle.

It was a clash of two teams at their peak, the Dons having won the league the previous season, while United boasted many of the players who’d been champions two years earlier.

Paul Sturrock, as he often did in big games, got the Tangerines off to a perfect start when he put them ahead with five minutes gone. Fourteen minutes into the second half, Stuart Beedie grabbed what proved to be the winner.

United still had to battle all the way to the final whistle for their victory and a late effort from Ian Angus made for an anxious final few minutes before the fans could start their celebrations.

The final, against Celtic, brought more Hampden agony as, despite a strike from Beedie early in the second half, late Davie Provan and Frank McGarvey goals would snatch the trophy.