HIS autobiography was titled Jousting With Giants – a reference to the greats of the game his Dundee United side took on and very often slayed during the 22 years that he spent in the dugout at Tannadice.

But Jim McLean, whose passing at the age of 83 after a long illness was announced yesterday, was a true colossus of Scottish football himself who was a formidable adversary for any rival, no matter how revered.

His United side only won three trophies – the League Cup in 1979 and 1980 and the Premier Division in 1983 - during his time in charge.

However, when you consider the Tayside club have only lifted five major honours during their entire 111 year existence it puts his remarkable achievements in their proper perspective.

It wasn’t just domestically either where McLean enjoyed success. He flourished in Europe too. In one six year spell he lead his men to two quarter-finals, a semi-final and a final in continental competition.

United’s run to the final of the UEFA Cup in 1987 included wins over Barcelona both at home and away in the Nou Camp. Alas, his men lost to IFK Gothenburg in the two-legged decider.

McLean was a notoriously volatile individual whose involvement in football came to a sad end in 2000 after he had been appointed chairman when he assaulted a BBC reporter during an interview. He sold his majority shareholding to Eddie Thompson in 2002.

But his burning ambition, knowledge of the game and his coaching ability were unrivalled anywhere.

McLean was born in Larkhall in 1937 and grew up in the nearby village of Ashgill along with his two brothers Tommy and Willie. All three would go on to become professional footballers and managers.

An inside forward, McLean began his career with junior club Larkhall Thistle, who his father and brother Willie had both played for, and went on to play for Hamilton Academical, Clyde, Dundee and Kilmarnock.

Despite working part-time as a joiner for much of his playing days, he made a total of 474 appearances and scored no fewer than 170 goals at senior level.

After retiring from playing he spent 18 months as a coach at Dundee before being asked to succeed Jerry Kerr as United manager in 1971. He took over at the age of just 34.

He immediately instigated a youth policy that would in time bear fruit for the Tannadice club in future years.

He was responsible for developing the talents of many of Scotland’s finest footballers – including Davie Dodds, Kevin Gallacher, Richard Gough, Paul Hegarty, Maurice Malpas, Ralph Milne, David Narey and Paul Sturrock.

They would all, with the notable exception of Milne, go on and represent Scotland and McLean himself would serve as the part-time assistant manager of the national team for four years under Jock Stein, including at the 1982 World Cup in Spain.

The undoubted highlight of his spell as manager came in the 1982/83 season when his side won the Premier Division – with a 2-1 win over their city rivals at Dens Park clinching the trophy.

Success in the Scottish Cup, though, eluded him. United reached no fewer than six finals and lost them all.

It was ironic that United finally lifted the trophy in 1994 with a 1-0 win over Rangers – the year after Ivan Golac had succeeded McLean as manager.

He was courted by other clubs during his tenure, including by Rangers in 1983. However, he was unhappy with the Ibrox club’s refusal to sign Roman Catholic players. He rejected their advances despite being assured the policy would be scrapped.

He was named SFWA Manager of the Year in 1987 and was inducted into the Scottish Football Hall of Fame in 2005.

A Dundee United statement last night read: "An integral part of our history and rise to the forefront of European football, Jim was simply a titan of Dundee United folklore, cherished by the United family the world over."

A statement by the McLean family published by United read: "Jim was a much-loved husband, father, brother, uncle and father-in-law, and we will all sadly miss him. His remarkable six-decade career made him a true legend not only at Dundee United, but across the world of football."