Ultimate United Articles
Remi Moses Heroes, Villains & Legends
The latest instalment in this section focuses on an unsung hero of the 1980’s. Remi Moses was a local lad who had slipped under the radar as a youngster, meaning that Manchester United had to pay a significant fee to bring him to Old Trafford.
By Philip Meese, Chief Editor
Remi Moses is one of those players who must look back on his career, and feel that Lady Luck just wasn’t his friend. In addition to injuries finishing his career before the age of thirty, it always seemed that just as Moses was on the up, something would crop up to try and knock him back down. Nevertheless, he was exactly the type of player Manchester United could do with today. The passion, the drive, the stamina, traits that are just not seen in the majority of players these days.
It is quite strange that Remi Moses slipped under the noses of so many clubs within the Greater Manchester area. Born in 1960, in Miles Platting, the fact that United, City, and even clubs like Bolton, Oldham and Bury didn’t notice his talent meant that it was in the Midlands that Moses was given his first big break. He signed for West Bromwich Albion, making his debut in 1979.
Moses played two seasons at The Hawthorns, playing alongside his future United team mate Bryan Robson. In 1980-81, Albion achieved a 4th place finish in Division One, four places ahead of United, having been impressive throughout the late 1970’s. Unfortunately for Baggies fans, when a club not seen as one of the traditionally big clubs achieves success, the other clubs start circling. Real Madrid had already taken Laurie Cunningham two years previously. Now it was their manager Ron Atkinson who was attracting interest, and following the sacking of Dave Sexton, Manchester United were in need of a new man in charge.
The first thing that Atkinson did was to instruct the United board to pay “whatever it took” to get Bryan Robson; advice given to him by legendary Liverpool manager Bill Shankly. This was easier said than done, as West Brom dug their heels in. Atkinson also had other transfer targets, and one of them was Arsenal striker Frank Stapleton, who was out of contract at Highbury. When Stapleton came to Manchester to meet the new United boss, Moses turned up at the same hotel to inform his former mentor, who had given him his professional debut, that he wanted to join him at United.
It is usually written that Moses was part of the deal that took Bryan Robson to Old Trafford in 1981. The truth is, however, that when Robson signed for Manchester United, penning his contract on the pitch before a game against Wolves, Moses had already been at the club for a couple of weeks. A fee of £500,000, a third of what United paid for Robson, had been accepted by Albion back in September and he had made his debut as a substitute in a 1-0 win over Swansea City.
Atkinson soon established a midfield trio of Robson, Moses and Ray Wilkins. Despite being just 5ft 6ins tall, Moses was the archetypal defensive midfielder, the anchorman. His primary instructions a lot of the time were to win the ball, and pass it to Robson. This, however, does not do justice to the other traits that Remi Moses brought to the team. He had a superb engine, and could run all day long. He was also a tidy passer of the ball as well, and despite playing against bigger opponents such as Graeme Souness, he wasn’t intimidated by anyone. He was simply a Mancunian lad who had come back home.
When Moses scored against Middlesbrough in October 1981, he became the first black player to score for Manchester United, although not the first to play for them – Dennis Walker, in 1963, took that honour. While United achieved a third place finish in the table, they didn’t really challenge for the title, and suffered early exits from both domestic cups. Atkinson was getting his own team together, and would add more quality to the side over the summer of 1982.
Ron Atkinson decided that further imports would be needed for Manchester United to have a crack at winning the biggest prizes. Three of the best players the club had over this period were introduced in 1982, and cost United a grand total of £25,000. This fee was spent on one player, Irish defender Paul McGrath, signed from St Patrick’s Athletic. Dutch international Arnold Mühren was incredibly given a free transfer by Ipswich Town, and Norman Whiteside had made his first team bow at the end of Atkinson’s first season. Just 16 years old when he made his debut, he impressed sufficiently to be selected for Northern Ireland’s World Cup squad a couple of months later.
It finally looked as though United had a squad capable of challenging for the title, which they did. It was, however, an unsuccessful pursuit and United were left to concentrate on the domestic cups in the 1982-83 season. The events of the final few months of the campaign illustrated a taste of the disappointments that lay in wait for Remi Moses.
The 1983 League Cup final featured Manchester United for the first time in its history, and it was the old enemy Liverpool who stood in their way. Unfortunately Brian Robson was injured, and Moses was to partner Mühren and Wilkins in midfield. Although Whiteside gave United the lead, Liverpool equalised to take the game to extra time. Injuries to centre-backs Kevin Moran and Gordon McQueen meant that midfielder Lou Macari moved to full back, while Stapleton had to help out in defence. A goal by Liverpool’s Ronnie Whelan settled matters. Moses had played, and lost, his first major final for United.
United did make a return to Wembley two months later, in the F.A. Cup Final, against recently relegated Brighton & Hove Albion. They required a replay to lift the trophy, winning 4 – 0 after a 2-2 draw in the first game. Moses was to miss out again, however, as he was suspended for both matches following a red card in a league match against Arsenal towards the end of the season.
Manchester United’s F.A. Cup victory meant that they had qualified for the 1983-84 European Cup Winners’ Cup. Once again, they would challenge for the league title, but still finished six points behind Liverpool, and were out of both domestic cups by the end of January. It was in Europe, however, where United really made headlines. After getting past Dukla Prague and Spartak Varna, they were handed a quarter-final tie against Barcelona.
Even in the 1980’s the Catalan giants had a star studded line up, and boasted Argentine legend Diego Maradona and German icon Bernd Schuster. A 2 – 0 first leg defeat in the Nou Camp made the task even more daunting. Not that the likes of Moses and Robson were intimidated. A crowd of 58,000 roared United on, and while Robson did the damage by scoring twice, Moses made sure that Schuster and Maradona had little influence on the game. It was also his quick thinking to chase down a loose ball that set up United’s second goal, finished off by Robson. Quite simply, they never really got a kick, and Stapleton later scored United’s third to send them into the semi-finals.
The next hurdle for United came in the shape of Italian giants Juventus, whose squad was largely made up of players from Italy’s World Cup winning squad two years earlier. Atkinson already had a selection headache with Mühren injured and Wilkins suspended. His problems were increased when Robson suffered a hamstring injury the day before the game. It meant that Moses was partnered in midfield by Paul McGrath. United drew 1-1 in the first leg at Old Trafford, with Moses doing a superb man-marking job on Michel Platini, one of the best players in the world at that time. Robson wrote in his autobiography that Moses had “obliterated” the French maestro. Despite their injury worries, United acquitted themselves superbly in the return leg in Italy. Juventus scraped a 2-1 victory thanks to a last minute goal by Paolo Rossi, to send them into the final, which they went on to win.
Remi Moses had played against some of the best players in world football in 1983-84, and had not once looked out of place. He showed that he was much more than merely someone who could break up play, and distribute to more creative players. He matched them kick for kick, showing that not only was he a man for the big occasion, but that he was a superb player in his own right. It is a shame that fate would ultimately rob him of the chance to feature in similar matches.
The Beginning of the End
Moses carried his fantastic form into the 1984-85 season, as United made an impressive start to their league campaign. New signings such as Jesper Olsen and Gordon Strachan had hit the ground running, instantly becoming fan favourites. The Red Devils were also in Europe once again, this time in the UEFA Cup.
Moses had begun to flourish since Ray Wilkins had moved to A.C. Milan in the summer, and his form had not gone unnoticed by England manager Bobby Robson. He called the midfielder up to his squad, but fate was to deny him an international cap. Shortly before United were due to take on Hungarian side Videoton in the UEFA Cup quarter-final, Moses suffered a knee injury that would rule him out for the rest of the season. Following a 1-1 draw, United crashed out of Europe on penalties, and their title challenge was beginning to peter out. There was consolation in the form of a second F.A. Cup in three years, but thanks to his injury Moses would once again miss the final against Everton.
1985-86 was the season most United fans remember as the one where the team came flying out of the traps, winning their first ten games in a row, but still finishing fourth. While the team played some magnificent football, Moses saw fate deal him yet another bad hand. Working his way back to full fitness, he had featured in just three league games when he was selected against Liverpool in October. Moses badly twisted his ankle in that match, and did not play again for almost a year.
It was September 1986 by the time Remi Moses once again put on a United shirt. By this time United were stuttering badly, the previous term’s title challenge a distant memory. Ron Atkinson would last just a further two months in the job, before being replaced by Alex Ferguson. Moses would start the new manager’s first game, a 2-0 defeat at Oxford United, but the writing was already on the wall.
Remi Moses never recovered from the two serious injuries that had blighted his progress, and as a result series of niggles arose kept him on the sidelines for extended periods. His final appearance for Manchester United was on the last day of the 1987-88 season, a 2-1 win over Wimbledon at Old Trafford. Although he had reported for pre-season training, Moses accepted that he was never going to be the same player, and retired aged just 27 in late 1988.
Moses did not stay in the game following his retirement, and is rarely heard from these days. It was reported that he was now buying and selling property within the Manchester area. He has also been involved in inline skating, coaching the Manchester Warriors. His son, Tunji Moses, is also a footballer who currently plays for Ashton United, having previously played for Salford City, Stockport County and F.C. United.
It is hard to say how Moses reacted to the early finish to his career, but maybe the fact that he knows he had the potential to achieve so much broke his heart. He had already suffered so many disappointments, with fate robbing him of the chance to play in two F.A. Cup finals. The one final he did play in ended in defeat, albeit against a Liverpool side who were among the best in world football at the time. The knee injury, which set the wheels in motion for the rest of his career, came just at the time when he looked set to become an England regular. He could have been a useful asset for Bobby Robson at the 1986 World Cup.
It might have been possible for him to play on, but he would have been half the player. He had such a tigerish edge to his game, and anyone who doubts this should ask his own team mate Jesper Olsen. The Danish winger went in heavy on Moses during training, and the midfielder saw red. Olsen received several stitches, and Moses received a fine equalling two weeks wages. Clayton Blackmore also reportedly received similar retaliation, although it was a case of mistaken identity, as it was Graeme Hogg who had fouled Moses on that occasion.
Alex Ferguson was said to be very disappointed when Moses was forced to call it a day, as he could have seen himself building a side around the midfielder. In the summer of 1989, Ferguson brought Paul Ince, Mike Phelan and Neil Webb into the club to strengthen the midfield. Had Moses not been so unlucky with injuries, it’s probably safe to say that at least one of those players would not have been needed. When Ferguson started to win trophies, Moses would have been coming up to 30 years of age, most probably at his peak.
Remi Moses will no doubt look back upon his career and wonder what might have been, especially given what they achieved once Ferguson got the balance right. Maybe if Moses had been available to him, it may not have taken him so long. But any United fan who ever saw him play will tell you that this was a player who never gave less than 100% every time he put on the shirt. It’s very likely that the reason he retired was the realisation that, given the punishment his body had taken over the years, he no longer had it to give.
Added by Philip Meese on 02/06/2017 21:27:26