Oh, Erik ten Hag. Out of all the possible cards you could have used to try and explain away Manchester United being beaten 3-1 at Old Trafford by Brighton & Hove Albion, why did you have to go for money?
“All the teams have spent a lot of money,” the Dutchman said in the wake of his side being completely outplayed by the Seagulls. “Brighton have spent money. When Man Utd come, it inflates the price. That is also true.”
It was an excuse thinner than Ten Hag’s hairline. The Albion XI named by Roberto De Zerbi was put together for under £16m. In Diogo Dalot, United had a full-back costing £19m on his own. Ten Hag was booed by his own fans when he took off new striker Rasmus Hojlund with 25 minutes still to play. United paid £64m for Hojlund – more than four times the cost of the entire Brighton starting lineup.
Just to hammer home how ridiculous Ten Hag bemoaning finances was, this current United squad is the most expensively assembled in world football according to Football Observatory CIES. Yes, even more so than Chelsea. United have forked out £991m for their current batch of players, just ahead of the £977m paid by the Blues.
The problem would appear to be that Manchester United and Ten Hag are not very good at spending money, rather than a lack of it. Compare that to Brighton, who could rest six players from the side which beat Newcastle United 3-1 before the international break and still come away from Old Trafford with a comfortable three points.
Here are those 11 players who delivered victory for the Albion at the Theatre of Dreams and how much they each cost. You might want to take some notes if you are reading, Mr. Ten Hag.
Steele was third choice goalkeeper in a Sunderland squad which had just been relegated into League One when Brighton signed him on a free transfer in the summer of 2018.
Routinely described by Black Cats fans as the second-worst goalkeeper in their club’s history, De Zerbi elevated Steele to Albion number one in March because his ability on the ball was superior to that of Robert Sanchez.
A full Dutch international, a product of the famous Ajax academy and a player who played a part in helping his boyhood club to the semi-finals of the Champions League in 2019.
Despite all that, Brighton were the only club interested in activating an unspecified release clause in Veltman’s Ajax contract, allowing them to sign him for just £900,000 in the summer of 2020. A remarkable price for a defender who is a solid 7/10 every time he plays.
The blow of not being able to sign Levi Colwill on a permanent basis has been lessened by the emergence of Jan Paul van Hecke.
The young Dutch defender struggled initially when pitched into the Premier League last season before a coming-of-age performance in which he marked Erling Haaland out of the game when Brighton drew 1-1 with Manchester City in May.
Van Hecke was bought for around £1.8m from NAC Breda in 2020 before learning the ropes with year-long loans at Heerenveen in 2020/21 and Blackburn Rovers in 2021/22, where he was voted Supporters’ Player of the Season.
Mr Brighton & Hove Albion. Dunk made his Brighton debut in a 0-0 draw away at Milton Keynes Dons in 2010, aged 18 with the Seagulls a mid-table League One outfit.
Fast forward 13 years and he has played over 400 times for the club, won two promotions, is an England international and is set to become the first captain in Brighton history to lead the club out in a European tie when their maiden Europa League campaign gets underway.
De Zerbi sprang something of a surprise by starting Lamptey at left back against United in place of Pervis Estupinan, who was rested as a result of his long journey back from international duty with Ecuador.
Nobody actually knows how much Lamptey cost when signing for Brighton in January 2020. The fee was reported as being £5m at the time but it is now generally accepted the Seagulls paid no more than £1.5m, having taken full advantage of Lamptey having only six months to run on his Chelsea deal and wanting to leave Stamford Bridge for first-team football.
Gross became the first signing Brighton made after winning promotion from the Championship in 2017 and six years on, he remains arguably their best piece of business.
Bought from German side Ingolstadt for just £3m, Gross has scored more Premier League goals than any other Albion player. Included in his haul of 28 are a remarkable seven against United. He seems to be getting better and better with age and will now be eyeing up the all-time Albion top-flight goals record currently held by Michael Robinson.
Once considered one of the best young talents in Germany, a succession of injuries halted the progress of midfielder Dahoud at Borussia Dortmund following his move from Borussia Mönchengladbach for €12m in 2017.
That ultimately led to Dortmund deciding not to renew his contract in the summer. In the Seagulls swooped, knowing the technical ability of the 27-year-old made him perfect for DeZerbiBall, providing they can keep him fit. So far, so good in that regard.
Brighton signed winger Adingra from Danish club FC Nordsjaelland in 2022 for around £6m before loaning him straight to Tony Bloom’s Belgian club, Union Saint-Gilloise – the same path to the Premier League taken by Kaoru Mitoma a year earlier.
Excitingly for Albion fans, Adingra put up even better goal and assist numbers in the Jupiler League than Mitoma managed during his year in Brussels. Big things are therefore expected of the Ivory Coast international.
In amongst all the exciting young talent Brighton possess, a couple of older and experienced heads are needed. Step forward Lallana, who has proven an inspired signing since joining on a free from Liverpool in the summer of 2020.
Despite his well-documented injury problems and the fact he is not getting any younger, Lallana remains a vital cog in the Seagulls machinery both on and off the pitch. That has been particularly true since De Zerbi arrived, with the Albion head coach describing Lallana as one of the most important players at the club.
The man with who wrote a university thesis on dribbling cost a meagre £2.5m from Japanese club Kawasaki Frontale in 2021, before spending that aforementioned year in Belgium with Union SG.
Mitoma’s career in England might have looked very different had Graham Potter remained Brighton manager. Potter favoured a 3-5-2 and appeared to have a phobia of wingers who were quick, direct and wanted to run at opposition defences. So much so that Mitoma did not start a Premier League game under him.
Welbeck was without a club having been released by Watford when Brighton brought him to the Amex in October 2020. Four major injuries across the previous six seasons resulting in a cumulative total of nearly three years on the sidelines put almost every other club in England off.
But not the Albion. Signing Welbeck on a one-year contract was deemed a risk worth taking. Brighton duly got him fit and firing and although the injury-prone tag remains, Welbeck has in actual fact missed just seven matches out of the past 65 through fitness issues.