“THEY got the hairdryer, we got the blast furnace,” says John McMaster, as he recalls the early iteration of Sir Alex Ferguson’s trademark method of delivering a dressing-down to his players.

If Manchester United’s superstars thought they had it bad when they got on the wrong side of Ferguson, they got off lightly compared to the legends he forged at Pittodrie.

Luckily for Greenock-born McMaster, he was hewn from the same solid shipyard stock as the man he still refers to as ‘The Boss’ 40 years on from Aberdeen’s greatest triumph, the humbling of Real Madrid in Gothenburg that brought with it the European Cup Winners’ Cup.

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That brought him the capacity to handle the rough edges of Ferguson’s approach to management, but also allowed him to readily form what became a lifelong bond with arguably the greatest manager that the game has ever seen.

What McMaster is keen to stress - despite his quip about the severity of the blasts he could dish out to his players - is that Ferguson’s genius wasn’t in the iron-fisted rule that came to be so known as part of his public persona. On the contrary, it was his human side, and his incredible dedication to the people within the clubs he led, that not only enabled him to mould football teams that would run through brick walls for him, but entire organisations.

“What people perhaps don’t know about the Boss is that he came in at 7am every morning at Pittodrie to do a circuit,” he said.

“We would start at 10, so we would come in about 9.15 to get our stretches done or whatever.

“He would already have been in to see the people working in the maintenance, who would be OAPs, and he knew all their names. The staff cleaning the stadium, he would be in cracking jokes with them. He was letting them know; you are part of the team.

“He would then go in to see the dinner lady, Bella Morrison. She would be preparing the breakfasts and dinners for us coming back. She was also a landlady, big Alex McLeish was one that stayed with her.

“He’d then go in and see the guys in the office, have a wee 20 minutes with them. He wasn’t checking up on them, he would be seeing if they needed anything and having a wee blether.

“Then he would chat to [assistant manager] Archie Knox to prepare what we were going to do, then he’d be into the physio room to see all the ‘chocolate’ ones, that’s what we called the injured boys. He would see who was fit, who was struggling.

“So, he had a full picture of the entire club before we went out at 10 o’clock. That man deserved success, because of that dedication.

“The detail behind his process was incredible.”

The influence of Ferguson on McMaster’s life was just as monumental as his influence on Aberdeen, and later, United. So much so that he has now written a book about his own life – ‘McMaster and Commander, the Business of Winning’ - that is part autobiographical, but also revelatory about what Ferguson’s leadership did for him and, of course, his teams along the way.

Aided by co-writers David Christie, Neil Martin and Robin McAusland, all of whom have successful business backgrounds, the book goes further than a standard biography by examining how those lessons can just as readily be applied to the business world, and indeed, everyday life.

One of the first windows McMaster was given into that human aspect of Ferguson’s personality came when he suffered an infamous knee injury, after a poor challenge from Liverpool’s Ray Kennedy in a European Cup tie at Pittodrie in 1980.

READ MORE: Aberdeen to celebrate 40th anniversary of Cup Winners' Cup success

Renowned surgeon, Mr Tom Scotland, described his leg as ‘swinging like a pendulum’ when he arrived at the hospital the next day, and the prognosis was bleak. He might not play again. He might even have difficulty walking.

As it transpired, after an invasive surgical procedure and 18 months of gruelling rehab, McMaster was ready to return to action. But he didn’t know that then, and with a mortgage, a wife and two young kids to worry about, Ferguson realised the less his player did know, the better.

“The Boss was the first person to know how bad the injury was,” he said.

“He was waiting at the hospital to see how I was when I came around from the operation, and had been to see the surgeon, who had told him it was unlikely I would ever play again.

“I didn’t know this until many years later, but he instructed the surgeon not to tell me that my career was in doubt. He knew me, as he knew all of his staff, and he realised the psychological damage that could have done to me.

“When I came to, the first person I saw was the Boss, which was a fantastic boost.

“He said: ‘Listen son, don’t you worry about anything. I’ve already spoken to Katy [McMaster’s wife] and let her know everything is being looked after, so she knows she doesn’t need to worry about the family and the mortgage and so on. Here’s what is going to happen…’

“It was an incredible gesture, and it allowed me to fully concentrate on my recovery. I’d never felt so valued in my life. The support I got from the Boss during that time never wavered.

“When I made it back, I would have run through a brick wall for him. Three years later, I lifted the European Cup Winners’ Cup in Gothenburg.”

It is little wonder then that even at the age of 68, and having retired from football longer ago than he cares to think about, McMaster does indeed still refer to Ferguson simply as ‘The Boss’. As even world superstars of the present era, like Cristiano Ronaldo, do too.

“It’s only natural,” he said.

“He injected a lot of passion into that city through football. It was like striking oil, in the oil capital.”

*’McMaster and Commander: The Business of Winning’ is available now from morganlawrence.co.uk, Amazon and selected bookstores.