Aston Villa had finished runners-up to Manchester United the previous season but were in poor form going into this final, losing three consecutive games. The bookmakers and national press were predicting that the Villa would be beaten comfortably at Wembley. Manchester United had suffered a slight blip of their own with a couple of draws in their previous league matches and several high-profile red cards to the likes of Eric Cantona and Peter Schmeichel – but the predicted victory for them in this match was expected to be the first part of a domestic treble. Alex Ferguson decided to field his full strength team with the exception of former Villa keeper Les Sealey who was deputising for the suspended Schmeichel. Villa boss Ron Atkinson decided to field a five-man midfield with Tony Daley and Dalian Atkinson on the flanks and unknown rookie Graham Fenton to partner Andy Townsend and Kevin Richardson in the centre. With Liverpudlian comedian Stan Boardman on the team bus and in the dressing room, Ron Atkinson ensured his players were relaxed before kick-off.
The match began with Aston Villa playing a fast counter-attacking game. United saw a lot of the ball but the Villa's defence, marshalled expertly by Paul McGrath, rendered Cantona anonymous. There was a scare for Villa when Mark Bosnich looked to have brought down Roy Keane outside the box but the referee played on. Aston Villa's only chance in the first twenty odd minutes had been an inswinging corner from Steve Staunton which was touched over by Sealey. On twenty five minutes however Townsend played a pass into the feet of Dean Saunders who flicked the ball over the top of United's defence and into the path of Dalian Atkinson who made no mistake.
In the second half the pattern of the game remained the same, United sluggish and Villa playing a counter-attacking game. On 70 minutes Kevin Richardson tackled United substitute Lee Sharpe who looked certain to score. Five minutes later Villa went down the other end and earned a free kick when Daley was brought down just outside the United box. Richardson swung it in and Saunders stuck a leg out to divert it into the net for Villa's second goal. Mark Hughes pulled a goal back for United with seven minutes remaining and was denied a second just moments later when Bosnich pushed a venomous looking volley round the post. With time nearly up Villa broke once more, Tony Daley striking the United post with a fantastic shot. The ball fell to Dalian Atkinson who hit it goal-wards only for the ball to strike Andrei Kanchelskis on the hand. The Russian was to be red carded and could only watch as Dean Saunders converted the resulting penalty. The final whistle went and the Villa had won 3–1. United went onto win the FA Cup and FA Carling Premiership but the day was Villa's and it was Kevin Richardson who stepped up to collect the cup for the Birmingham club.
The match was also the last to be covered on the original BBC Radio 5. The station closed down that night, with BBC Radio Five Live launching the following morning.