Ferguson announced his retirement plans at Manchester United yesterday.
McLeish, Ferguson's former captain at Aberdeen, told the Scottish Sun: "Sir Alex has been like a father-figure to me.
"I don't care if people think I sound sycophantic, the guy has made a huge contribution to my life and to my career.
"When I won the Carling Cup with Birmingham he was first on the phone.
"Similarly, when I was going through that tough spell at Villa, he was on the phone asking me up for a chat.
"He's been there for me so many times over the years.
"It was surreal standing opposite him on the touchline. I'd known only good times under him at Aberdeen and suddenly I was pitting my wits against him."