The team gave everything to make it a six point Easter programme and really rattled into United in the opening stages. Not profiting from chances proved particularly costly with Rooney about and a two-goal half-time deficit meant work was well and truly cut out in the second period.
The response was fine and Jermaine Jenas replied, but it was always going to be an uphill struggle against a side able to soak up pressure and hit on the break.
Martin was forced into considerable change in terms of team selection, with Ledley King, Anthony Gardner, Teemu Tainio and Mido all unavailable. From the team that started at Everton, in came Michael Dawson, Calum Davenport and Edgar Davids, while there were places on the bench for Noureddine Naybet, Stephen Kelly and Lee Barnard.
In what was a sizzling atmosphere, the scoring was so nearly opened in just the second minute of the game. Michael Carrick elegantly swept the ball from left to right and located Aaron Lennon who, with a burst of pace, got the better of Mikael Silvestre and zipped in a low cross which Jermain Defoe connected with at the near post. His connection looked like being a scoring one, but the ball fizzed across the face of goal and the advancing Robbie Keane could not apply the finishing touch.
Golden chance number two quickly followed from a Carrick free-kick midway in the United half the ball landing plumb for Dawson, but van der Sar proved an obstacle.
Punishment for not taking the chances came at the other end on seven minutes when Ronaldo sped down the left and crossed low for Wayne Rooney to fire home at the back post. It was a clinical and precision attack executed with the minimum of fuss.
Defoe and Keane combined to dissect the United rearguard, but the former could not really got hold of his shot and a swift break was not capitalised on. Van der Sar was then forced to save on the stretch from Defoe and Davenport came close to getting a decent forehead on the resulting Carrick corner.
Van der Sar did well just before the half-hour mark when United headed a set-piece back across their own goal and Dawson was nearest when the ball dropped, but the Dutchman closed him down quickly and his volley went high.
The pain of being a goal down was doubled on 35 minutes in a cruel fashion when Lee Young-Pyo was caught in possession inside our area by his countryman Park Ji-Sung. Rooney applied the simple finish past an unprotected Paul Robinson - the goalkeeper making his 200th senior appearance in all competitions.
There were a couple of promising dashes from Defoe at the beginning of the second period before Carrick took matters into his own hands with a forceful surge deep into United territory. He was bundled down when appearing set to go all the way and Nemanja Vidic was cautioned by referee Mr Halsey. Defoe's free-kick was charged down.
On 52 minutes the deficit was deservedly reduced. Keane's corner was headed downwards by Rio Ferdinand and seized upon a yard or two out by Jenas, who gratefully netted his seventh goal of the season.
Dawson ensured it remained 2-1 when van Nistelrooy was deemed not to be offside and found himself clean through on 57 minutes. The Dutch striker rounded Robinson, but did not legislate for a lunging Daws keeping the ball out of harm's way.
The boys pressed patiently over the next ten minutes as United quickly got numbers behind the ball. Danny Murphy was soon introduced in place of the quiet-ish Davids with 20 minutes remaining.
Next up was a first team debut for Barnard - the chance to see if he could transfer his scoring knack for the reserves to the Premiership stage. Barney won a free-kick straight away after a tussle with Vidic and set about making a nuisance of himself.
Keane flashed in a drive at Van der Sar with five minutes remaining with centre halves becoming centre forwards in a bid to save the game. Davenport nearly stole onto a long ball from Robinson but time passed quickly and the three minutes of stoppage time elapsed.
Two goals from Wayne Rooney consigned us to just a second home defeat of the season as Manchester United ran out 2-1 winners on Monday afternoon.