It seems to me that Manchester United supporters are unable to accept that when they haven’t won the league it’s because they weren’t the best team. According to them Manchester United threw the title away in 1992, despite Leeds winning it by four clear points and with a game to spare; and Eric Cantona won it for Leeds single handedly, despite only featuring in 15 league games and scoring 3 goals (none of them match winners). Of course they never say that Newcastle threw the title away in 1996.
Recently, following Kenny Dalglish’s return to football management with Liverpool I’ve heard some trot out the old “he only won the title with Blackburn because he bought it” line. This was a prominent opinion at the time and since then everyone seems to accept this as fact - as if the Manchester United team was somehow more virtuous and robbed of the title. Leaving aside the the fact that there's nothing actually morally wrong with a club using their money to buy the best players they can (isn’t that the goal of all clubs?), we all know Alex Ferguson has never spent big money on players. Just ask Juan Sebastian Veron, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Rio Ferdinand, Wayne Rooney, Andy Cole, Jaap Stam, Roy Keane, Gary Pallister, Dimitar Berbatov, Anderson, Nani, Owen Hargreaves and Michael Carrick.
Anyway I’m sick of this claim going unchallenged and the smug, glory-hunting bastards being allowed to bask in their self-satisfaction; so I decided to actually check if the claim was true. Did Blackburn Rovers buy the title in 1995?
Main starting eleven (the eleven players that made the most league starts):
Position - Player - League Appearances in 1994-95 season - Price (transfer record and future transfer)
GK - Tim Flowers - 39 - £2.4 million (most expensive goalkeeper in Britain, sold for £1.1 million)
RB - Ian Pearce - 22 - £300,000 (sold for £3.5 million)
CB - Colin Hendry - 38 - £700,000 (sold for £4 million)
CB - Henning Berg - 40 - £400,000 (sold to Manchester United for £5 million)
LB - Graeme Le Saux - 39 - £700,000 (sold for £5 million)
RM - Stuart Ripley - £1.3 million (club record, sold for £1.5 million)
CM - Mark Atkins - 30 - £45,000 (sold for £1 million)
CM - Tim Sherwood - 38 - £325,000 (sold for £3 million)
LM - Jason Wilcox - 27 - Youth System (sold for £4 million)
CF - Alan Shearer - 42 - £3.3 million (British transfer record, sold for £15 million, world transfer record)
CF - Chris Sutton - 40 - £5 million (British transfer record, sold for £10 million)
Other players that played in 5 or more league games:
Tony Gale - 15 - Free Transfer (left on a free transfer)
Mike Newell - 12 - £1.1 million (sold for £775,000)
Robbie Slater - 18 - £300,000 (sold for £600,000)
Paul Warhurst - 27 - £2.7 million (sold for £1.3 million)
Alan Wright - 5 - £500,000 (sold for £1,000,000)
Jeff Kenna - 9 - £1.5 million (left on a free transfer)
David Batty - 5 - £2.75 million (sold for £4.4 million)
Total price paid for main starting eleven - £14.47 million
Total price paid for all players playing in 5 or more league games - £23.32 million
Main starting eleven:
GK - Peter Schmeichel - 32 - £530,000 (left on a free transfer)
RB - Denis Irwin - 40 - £625,000 (left on a free transfer)
CB - Steve Bruce - 35 - £825,000 (left on a free transfer)
CB - Gary Pallister - 42 - £2.3 million (most expensive defender in Britain, second highest British transfer record, record transfer between two British clubs, sold for £2.5 million)
LB - Lee Sharpe - 28 - £200,000 (record for a YTS player, sold for £4.5 million)
RM - Andrei Kanchelskis - 30 - £650,000 (sold for £5 million)
CM - Roy Keane - 25 - £3.75 million (British transfer record, left on a free transfer)
CM - Paul Ince - 36 - £1 million (sold for £7.5 million)
LM - Ryan Giggs - 29 - Youth System
CF - Brain McClair - 40 - £850,000 (left on a free transfer)
CF - Mark Hughes - 34 - £1.8 million (club record, sold for £1.5 million)
Other players that played in 5 or more league games:
Eric Cantona - 21 - £1.2 million (retired)
David May - 19 - £1.2 million (left on a free transfer)
Gary Walsh - 10 - Youth System (sold for £600,000)
Andy Cole - 18 - £7 million (British transfer record (set that season), sold for £8 million)
Simon Davies - 5 - Youth System (sold for £150,000)
Nicky Butt - 22 - Youth System (sold for £2.5 million)
Paul Scholes - 17 - Youth System
Gary Neville - 18 - Youth System
Keith Gillespie - 9 - Youth System (sold for £1 million)
Total price paid for main starting eleven - £12.53 million
Total price paid for all players playing in 5 or more league games - £21.93 million
Difference in spending between the two clubs - £1.39 million more spent by Blackburn
Difference between spending on starting eleven - £1.94 million more spent by Blackburn
I would have thought that Eric Cantona and Andy Cole would have been the first choice strikers ahead of Bryan McClair and Mark Hughes but they weren’t due to the formers thuggery and Cole signing mid-season (for a British transfer record by the way). Had they been, their main starting eleven would have cost £18.08 million meaning Manchester United’s first eleven would have cost £3.61 million more than Blackburn’s.
If I wanted to be picky I could include Paul Parker who only featured in two league games for Manchester United that season but cost £2 million (in fact I’ve left him out but included David Batty in the Blackburn squad and he only played five games and cost £2.75 million). The fact is the cost of both squads is basically the same.
One could maybe try and argue that Blackburn spent a lot of money in a short space of time with no investment for the future. Let’s see.
Profit On Squad:
The total Blackburn later sold the above players for is £61.175 million, leaving a total profit of £37.855 million.
Manchester United later sold their players for a total of £26.05 million, leaving a total profit of £4.12 million. A few (Giggs, Scholes and Gary Neville) are still at the club but I don't think they'll be raking in millions by selling them in the future. I suppose they made a £3.5 million profit on Phil Neville who played twice that season and that would bring the total to £29.55 million with a profit of £7.62 million.
So Blackburn made a significant profit on the 1994-1995 squad making the “they bought the title” argument null and void.
But maybe Blackburn spent a lot more than Manchester United that season? Let's see.