Arsenal qualified for the 1948 FA Charity Shield as winners of the 1947–48 Football League First Division. It was the club's sixth league title and striker Ronnie Rooke scored 33 goals in the campaign to become the division's top goalscorer. The other Charity Shield place went to Manchester United who beat Blackpool to win the final of the 1947–48 FA Cup. Manchester United's progress in the competition was unique as the club was drawn against teams from the First Division in every round. Their home ties were staged at three different grounds as Old Trafford was being repaired from the damage sustained in the Manchester Blitz.
This was Arsenal's eighth Charity Shield appearance; prior to the game they had won five Shields (1930, 1931, 1933, 1934, 1938), and lost two (1935, 1936). By contrast Manchester United was undefeated in the Charity Shield; the club was winners in their previous two appearances in 1908 and 1911.