Gordon Strachan says Aberdeen can take plenty of positives from their game against Celtic on Sunday - despite the fact that they suffered a potentially morale-sapping 4-0 defeat to their title rivals.
Both of the Hoops' opening two goals came against the run of play, with Jason Denayer heading in the first, while Leigh Griffiths netted the second from the penalty spot.
By the time Gary Mackay-Steven and Stefan Johansen had added further goals, the game had slipped away from the Dons, who suffered defeat for the first time in the league since early November – when Celtic prevailed at Pittodrie.
Strachan, who spent seven trophy-laden years as a player at Aberdeen before enjoying a successful four-year spell as Celtic manager, felt that Derek McInnes’ side were inches away from recording their finest-ever performance at Parkhead for decades.
The Scotland boss told Sky Sports: "If you are the manager of Aberdeen walking into the dressing room after that game, what do you say to the players? For the first 65 minutes they are probably one or two passes away from their best performance here for the past 20 or 30 years.
"That's how close they were, that was the difference. Then the game becomes strange – it could have gone to five and that would not have been fair on Aberdeen and that would not have been right.
"Credit to Derek McInnes. He did not sit there doing nothing as it went to 3-0. At least he tried to make a change and make sure that they did not cave in. The players were spooked but the manager gave them some help. At least he could say that for 65 minutes or so they gave a great account of themselves.
"They have had no failures – just a couple of mistakes. Up to the second goal they did very well. For 60 minutes they were the better team. His decision to play three centre-halves towards the end there was smart and he and his coaching staff can sleep easy tonight."
Despite Aberdeen's early dominance Celtic went in front on 37 minutes through Denayer and Strachan felt that Aberdeen goalkeeper Scott Brown – who was blocked off by Leigh Griffiths – may have been at fault.
He said: "The goalie goes smaller than Griffiths at the corner. There is something wrong when he is bullied by a player as small as Griffiths. His whole body shape and position was determined by Griffiths. He has to start moving about and make himself a presence, the player has to move with him and then the referee will see it and is more likely to give a free-kick."
Celtic manager Ronny Deila had his critics during the early stages of his Celtic career but his philosophy appears to be about to bear fruit – and Strachan believes the Norwegian has found his feet in Scotland.
"He understands what it is all about now," said Strachan. "After a month or so in Glasgow he will have no idea what had hit him. But now his team are playing well, the games against Inter were good and now he is enjoying it. You have to be able to handle the stress and deal with the knocks but you are always going to get time here. It is not revolution here - it is all about evolution because there are people here who have done a good job here in the past. The fans are enjoying him too and he's got a good relationship there."