Dundee United legend Dave Bowman believes their 1987 win over Borussia Monchengladbach trumps Barcelona and Roma as the club’s greatest-ever result.
United saw off the Germans 2-0 at the Bokelberg Stadion 33 years ago today to reach the Uefa Cup Final thanks to second-leg goals from Iain Ferguson and Ian Redford.
They had beaten Barca 3-1 on aggregate in the previous round, while a 2-0 1984 European Cup semi-final first-leg win over the Italians at Tannadice is in the history books despite United not making the final.
However, Tangerines hero Bowman remembers the Monchengladbach result with most fondness.
“Monchengladbach were a really big team at the time, both them and Barca were, but I think the big thing was Monchengladbach got us into a final,” the former United midfielder said.
“Nobody remembers who loses the semi-final. I wasn’t there at the time but nobody really remembers the Roma European Cup semi-final too fondly but they’ll always recall Barcelona and Monchengladbach.
“Getting into the final was a massive thing for the city and the club but at the time, as players, nothing was really a surprise for us.
“We were expecting to get there so when we did it was great to do, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t as much of a surprise to us as it was outsiders.
“At that time there was the European Cup, Cup Winners’ Cup and the other teams went into the Uefa Cup.
“When you think about that in recent terms, Liverpool didn’t win the league last season but they won the Champions League.
“That was the sort of level we were up against. It was a huge achievement.”
Bowman recalls United going into the second leg riled up after witnessing some premature celebrations from the Monchengladbach players after a stalemate in Dundee.
The 56-year-old also remembers a rare occasion where legendary boss Jim McLean individually congratulated his players after the final whistle.
Bowman, who made 429 appearances in tangerine, added: “Under wee Jim we were always taught, unless it was the second leg and you had to win at home, as long as you didn’t lose a goal it was OK.
“That was the biggest thing, from our point of view, we didn’t get beat and we weren’t up against it.
“I remember they were celebrating after the first leg and that probably gave us a bit of impetus to go on and beat them.
“They were high-fiving each other because they got a 0-0 and thought the tie was over so that annoyed us a bit.
“It made such a difference for us going there at 0-0 and Iain getting the goal just before half time.
“They had to really come at us because they needed to score two.
“Going into half time it was a massive advantage but I can’t really remember us being under that much pressure.
“We knew they had to score two which was a tough ask against our defence. It was quite comfortable.
“They didn’t have a lot of chances. Big Thommo (Billy Thomson) had some great games and made some big saves that season but I can’t really remember him having to be brilliant.
“Heggie (Paul Hegarty) said to me after it, ‘You should take this all in,’ and I was probably very naïve and just thought this happens every year, we’ll do it again next year.
“I probably didn’t appreciate it as much as what I probably should have. It’s only when you look back.
“It’s probably one of the only times I can recall Jim coming round and shaking everybody’s hand in the dressing-room after the game.
“He really pushed us to our limits and got the best out of everybody. If he could see you had something he would get it out of you, how he did it was irrelevant.
“He was very guarded towards us but he went round and congratulated everyone individually.”
United went on to lose the final 2-1 over two legs against IFK Gothenburg, with a 1-0 Scottish Cup Final defeat to St Mirren sandwiched in between.
Bowman believes had they beaten the Buddies they might’ve gone on to secure the Uefa Cup, too.
He continued: “It shows how much the SFA helped us at the time! We played the Scottish Cup Final on the Saturday and the second leg of the Uefa Cup Final on the Wednesday.
“It was for the good of Scottish football we were trying to win it as well. I think if we’d beaten St Mirren, we would’ve had a lot better chance.
“There’s no way of saying we’d have definitely beat Gothenburg because they were a decent team but the St Mirren loss was the first down we’d had that season.
“Everything was on the up all the time, even with the amount of games we’d played that year.
“It was the first time the press had questioned our fitness because we’d played that many games.
“You’re never tired when you’re winning but as soon as you get beat that can quickly change.
“Personally, all the finals don’t mean anything if you don’t win. You want to have success by winning and savouring that.”
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