Richard Møller Nielsen is mostly known for his career as a coach, but he played as an active footballer at Odense BK, and was capped twice for Denmark as a defender. He stopped his career prematurely due to injury.
He coached, among others, Esbjerg fB, Odense BK and the Danish national youth team under head coach Sepp Piontek. In 1990 Sepp Piontek left his position as national coach, and a new name had to be found. Richard Møller Nielsen was mentioned early in the race for the job, but the national football association decided to look abroad for a new coach. Therefore the Danish Football Association pointed out German Horst Wohlers as the new Danish coach, but he was unable to break his contract with German club Bayer Uerdingen. It became a public farce, and Richard Møller Nielsen was finally appointed national coach.
The first goal for the newly appointed coach was to qualify for the Euro 1992 in Sweden. Denmark started out with a secure home victory against The Faroe Islands, but the following results in the qualification were an away draw against Northern Ireland and a 2-0 home loss against Yugoslavia. Several players left the squad including Michael Laudrup, Brian Laudrup and Jan Heintze, and several newspapers were demanding that Richard Møller Nielsen step down. Despite the criticism the team won the rest of their games in the group including a 2-1 away win against Yugoslavia. It was, however, not enough to qualify. The Danish team finished second in the group just behind Yugoslavia.
What looked like a European Championship without a Danish team was all changed due to the civil war in Yugoslavia. UEFA decided to ban Yugoslavia from participating in the championship, and Denmark was chosen as the replacement because of the team finished behind Yugoslavia in the qualification group.
The Danish team started out with a 0-0 against England and a defeat against hosts Sweden. It looked like it was over after just two games, but a 2-1 winner from substituted Lars Elstrup secured a victory against France and a place in the semifinals. The defending European champions The Netherlands was the next opponent, and once again the Danish team surprised. 2-2 in the ordinary game and 5-4 in the penalty shoot-out got Denmark a place in the final. Reigning world champions Germany looked confident in the final, but Richard Møller Nielsen and his players left the field as winners with a 2-0 victory. It would become the highlight of Richard Møller Nielsen's coaching career, and it gave him the prize as World Manager of the Year chosen by World Soccer.
There were lots of expectations of the Danish team, foremost that the European champions should qualify for the World Cup in the USA. Brian Laudrup had returned to the team before the Euro 92, but his brother who had just won the European Cup with FC Barcelona was still missing in the squad. Michael Laudrup refused to play under Richard Møller Nielsen, because he felt the coach had too defensive an approach to the game leaving no room for a creative player like Michael Laudrup. Denmark started the World Cup qualification with three 0-0 draws, before the team finally got a 1-0 victory against Northern Ireland in Belfast. On the 25th of August 1993 Michael Laudrup made a comeback in a 4-0 victory home against Lithuania after having settled with Richard Møller Nielsen. The comeback of Denmark's most renowned player was not enough to secure a qualification place. Michael Laudrup never got the same success under Richard Møller Nielsen, as he enjoyed during the 80s with Sepp Piontek as coach and Preben Elkjær next to him in the attack. The last game of the qualification was away against Spain in Seville, and the home team won 1-0, even though the Danes had been playing 11 against 10 for most of the game.
Richard Møller Nielsen could, however, again secure a trophy for the Danish team, when Denmark participated in The Confederations Cup in 1995. This time the Danish team beat Argentina 2-0 in the final. Richard Møller Nielsen had several players from the national Danish league in his squad with players like Peter Schmeichel missing due to obligations with Manchester United.
The Danish team qualified for the Euro 1996 tournament in England, but the team failed to retain the title. Denmark was knocked out in the group stage, where the team finished third behind Croatia and Portugal. The team drew with Portugal, lost to Croatia and won against Turkey in the last game. Richard Møller Nielsen decided to leave his position after the championship, and he is today considered the most successful coach of Denmark ever.
He went on to coach the Finland national football team. As Finland manager he was very close at securing a play-off game for the 1998 World Cup in France, but a Hungarian goal in the stoppage time of the last game crushed the dream. The Finnish team also failed to qualify for the Euro 2000 in Belgium and The Netherlands.
In 2000 he took over as coach of the Israeli national team, but Israel did not succeed at securing a place among the teams in the 2002 World Cup. It would become Richard Møller Nielsen's last international job.
Afterwards he managed the Danish second division team Kolding FC before retiring in October 2003.