As Robin Van Persie produced some of his best form for Manchester United last night, he put the British press in a very awkward position.
Van Persie’s hat-trick against Olympiakos put United ahead in the tie but a late goal for the Greeks would have sent them through, creating chaos amongst the British newspapers covering the game.
Had Olympiakos scored in the final few seconds of the match, the tone of several newspaper articles, back pages and headlines would have been completely transformed with the current positive feeling eradicated by further doubt hanging over the head of David Moyes.
Football editor of the times, Tony Evans, conveyed the scene perfectly through his Twitter account as the national daily prepared to get their first edition of today’s paper sorted out.
Now this scoreline sets up the real nightmare reporting scenario. Late goal that sends Olympiacos through— Tony Evans (@TonyEvansTimes) March 19, 2014
If it stays 3-0 the tenor of the pieces would be relief for Moyes and United. An injury time goal means massive swerve.— Tony Evans (@TonyEvansTimes) March 19, 2014
Fancy changing tone of 1,000-word piece with me screaming: 'I need it now!' into the phone? Me neither— Tony Evans (@TonyEvansTimes) March 19, 2014
Plenty of people have talked about writing two versions. It's hard enough to write 1,000 coherent words in such short time. Never mind more— Tony Evans (@TonyEvansTimes) March 19, 2014
Fortunately the Manchester United back four was good enough to stay strong and see off the late fight from the Greeks, which allowed deadlines to be hit and various publications to go through on time.
Focus in the British media will now switch to whether United can build on last night’s result and whether a good run of games for Moyes over the rest of the season can at least leave United with Europa League football, which is a tiny platform to build on heading into next season.
There’s even still a remote chance they could win the Champions League and hopefully the injury which saw Van Persie carried off on a stretcher won't be too bad.