Dundee United vs Aberdeen – A Short History of the New Firm DerbyBy: The Northern Light | November 7th, 2008
The cities of Aberdeen and Dundee lie about 65 miles apart on the north-east coast of Scotland. Aberdeen, the larger of the two, nestles between the rivers Dee to the south and Don to the north, while Dundee is situated on the north bank of the Tay Estuary. A major town during the industrial revolution, Dundee grew thanks to a flourishing jute industry and rose to become one of the more important towns in Scotland, at a time when Aberdeen was still a small and largely insignificant fishing port. The decline of the jute industry and other traditional heavy industries on which the town had become dependent (such as shipbuilding) led to a decline in the cities fortunes and by the 1970’s, Dundee had entered a recession, with unemployment rising to 14% by 1981. In contrast, Aberdeen had begin to flourish during this time. The discovery of North Sea oil led to Aberdeen entering a boom period that saw it’s population grow to over 200,000 and the city establish itself as the Oil Capital of Europe.
This rivalry between the two cities was not just economic or social. The two football teams in the towns had also begun to improve. Dundee United had slowly been overtaking its larger and more illustrious rival Dundee in terms of league and cup success. By the mid 70’s, a United team under the management of Jim McLean (assisted then by a young Walter Smith) had reached the Scottish Cup final in 1973 and in the league the team had achieved a third place in ‘78 and ‘79; they would eventually win their first – and to date only – League championship in 1983. Back-to-back League Cups in 1980 and 1981 completed the silverware. European success was also nearly theirs, as the Terrors reached the semi-final of the European Cup (where they gave A.S. Roma a scare, eventually losing the tie 3-2 on aggregate). In then 1986/87 season United went one further when they became the first Scottish club to reach the Uefa Cup final, where they lost to IFK Gothenburg.
During this time, Aberdeen had also slowly begun to improve. Under the guidance of new manager Alex Ferguson (freshly sacked from his post at St. Mirren), the Dons had won the league in 1980, a feat they repeated in 1984 and 1985. Add to that two European trophies and several domestic Cups (the Scottish Cup in 82, 83 and 84) during this time and you can safely say that between them, Aberdeen and Dundee United where the two best sides in Scotland.
What these two teams – now dubbed ‘the New Firm’ – achieved more than anything else was to break the dominance of Rangers and Celtic during this time. Aberdeen’s league win in the 1984/85 season would be the last time that a side outside of Glasgow would win the league. Heavy investment at Ibrox and Parkhead (thanks mainly to these two teams being able to pick up English players keen to play European football while English sides where barred from taking part in European competitions) saw these two teams slowly re-impose themselves on the league and by the end of the 80’s, normal service had resumed. Both Aberdeen and United would continue to challenge for silverware, but neither team would challenge the Old Firm again.
Despite the downturn of both Aberdeen and Dundee United’s fortunes in later years (years of mid-table mediocrity, United’s relegation in 1995, Aberdeen’s near relegation in 2000 and a revolving managerial door at Aberdeen: consider that Dundee United had only one manager during most of this period, while Aberdeen had four), this fixture remains an important and exciting fixture. Fans of Aberdeen could – indeed would – argue that Rangers are their biggest rivals, but a win against the upstarts down the A90 is a highly valued prize. This rivalry does not seem to apply to the transfer market though – the current Aberdeen squad has four ex-United players: Lee Miller, Lee Mair, Stuart Duff and Mark Kerr. It’s pretty much one way traffic however, with the last Aberdeen player moving to United was Jamie Buchan back in 2000.
Tomorrows fixture is the 163rd time the teams have met in the league. Aberdeen have won 64 of those encounters, while United have won 52. Last season, the two sides played four games with two wins and two defeats each, while tomorrows encounter is the second time the sides have met this season. On the 20th September a penalty from Francisco Sandaza inflicted the 4th defeat of the season on Jimmy Calderwood’s side. Aberdeen and United had poor starts to the season with both sides at one point bottom of the table, but that victory over Aberdeen set United on a run of seven unbeaten games (5 wins and 2 draws, including that belter against Rangers in midweek) so it’s fair to say that United are on a run of good form at the minute.
Aberdeen finally got their first home win of the season in the narrow 1-0 win over Killie last Saturday. The result lifted the Dons into 7th place – only two points behind United in 3rd sport. Jimmy and the team travel the short distance down the motorway without Jamie Smith, Bertrand Bossu, Tommy Wright and Stuart Duff, who has been ruled out until the early part of next year with a knee injury.
The Dons have a great record away from home (P5, W3, D1, L1) and should look to continue that run tomorrow. United are a strong side though, packed with talent and this game will be no pushover. It will be interesting to see who Calderwood has at left back, a position that has caused some debate in recent times. Mulgrew was brutal last week against Killie, his substitution for Mark Kerr making all the difference in midfield as the Dons reverted back to a more sensible 4-4-2. Two players who had a good game last week where Sone Aluko and Lee Miller, so expect them to be in the side. We think this is the probable lineup:
4-4-2, left to right:
Langfield, Considine, Severin, Diamond, Hodgkiss, Aluko, McDonald, Kerr, Foster, Miller, Mackie
Francisco Sandaza. Some good performances in pre-season got the pulses raising at Tannadice. He’s scored four goals so far this season, including United first two goals in the 3-3 draw with Rangers. Signed from the Valencia reserve squad, the 23 year-old has begun to settle in well in the SPL and has become a firm favourite with the United supporters.
Hard to call really. If Aluko and Miller turn in performances like the one last week against Killie then we might be in with a chance. We always take a big support down to Tannadice which will boost the side, but realistically though, I expect United to win this 1-0.