If youre talking before PL then how about Liverpool? I'm pretty sure they were big spender too. For example: Ian Rush, John Barnes, Bruce Gobbelaar, and Peter Beardsley, those werent exactly cheap signings either.
Followed by years of under-investment. Like i've mentioned that after we broke transfer record for Andy Cole in January 1995, we had to wait for another 3 years before we spend big again (summer 1998) Also let's not forget that we broke British and world transfer records multiple times under The Glazers too. Di Maria was British record fee in 2014, Martial was world record fee for teenage player in 2015, Pogba was world record fee in 2016, and Maguire holds the record for the most expensive CB in the world, BUT we ARE NOT the biggest spender in the PL.
We were probably paying off the North Stand. These amazing Glazers have a different approach.