Bunhill: Best cracked it, and now United will milk it

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The Independent Online
Thanks to the thirst for investigative journalism (and tea) of my colleague Iain Millar, I can reveal the availability in our supermarkets of a new breakfast brand name: Manchester United milk.

United, in case you didn't know it, is a diversified leisure company that dabbles in conferences, catering, merchandising, champagne and, every now and then, a spot of football. Now, under a deal with Dairy Crest, it is lending its brand name to cartons of milk in return for a licence fee and a share of the proceeds.

All sorts of well-worn puns suggest themselves as a result of this alliance, so I won't spurn open goals such as red tops, no bottle, having seen milk turn faster than United's back four, or the club's galaxy of volatile stars being more thin-skinned than semi-skimmed. Of far greater historical importance, however, is the fact that this isn't Manchester United's first flirtation with the dairy industry.

Its debut was back at the start of the 1970s when George Best fronted a promotion for the Egg Marketing Board designed to persuade us to eat one of its products for breakfast. You can tell these were days of innocence because no sooner had the adverts appeared than the campaign jingle was echoing round United's terraces: "E for B and Georgie Best, E for B and Georgie Best, E for B and Georgie Best" (there weren't any other words).

Despite the success of the promotion, there were two big problems. First, the tough-tackling defenders of the time took the lyrics too literally and had George Best for breakfast, and second, no one believed the hard- living star really did start the day with an egg. But "E for B" it was because "Bloody Mary and Whisky Chaser for B ... and Georgie Best" didn't scan.

Britain was back to its favourite pastime last week: berating the Met Office. Our weathermen, it was alleged, had failed to predict the torrential downpour on Tuesday afternoon and so were entirely responsible for the travel misery endured by millions of commuters as roads flooded and railway stations were closed.

We all need someone to blame when things go wrong, of course, but would it really have made any difference if the Met Office had predicted the "monsoon" (obviously the people who report on these things have never been caught in a real one) as well as its exact time, duration and magnitude?

Well, absolutely. Chief executives would have told staff to go home one hour before the storm was scheduled to start and not to return if rain was forecast the next day, railway companies would have hired a fleet of rockets, and everyone would have got busy sandbagging their houses and moving to mountain retreats.

And harking back to the time the weathermen got into really deep water - the great storm of October 1987 - we would of course have drained the rivers, parked our cars in France and coated our houses in "anti-tree".

All guns blazing

In a week when Hungary, Poland and the Czech Republic joined Nato, it seemed contradictory that Germany should announce it was pressing ahead with the Eurofighter - the collaborative defence project which also involves Italy, Spain and the UK. So it was hard to take issue with the European when the newspaper thundered against the commercial logic of aircraft that cost millions to build but have "no enemy to fight".

Well, up to a point it was hard to argue because on the front page, directly under the European masthead, came the big bold headline ACHTUNG! - and I don't think they were being ironic. So what else can we expect from these good Europeans of the Rue de Shame? Depending on which country incurs their displeasure, take your pick from the following (no stereotypes - ed) selection: MAMMA MIA! ... SACRE BLEU! ... BASTARDOS! ... CRIKEY!