A performance that certainly didn't lack energy, spirit and character at Old Trafford, but goals from Nemanja Matić and Paul Pogba (2) ensured it was Manchester United who secured the points on Boxing Day.
Both Terence Kongolo and Laurent Depoitre saw chances go begging as Town had moments at Theatre of Dreams, only for Pogba's second half brace to kill the fixture off once and for all despite Zanka's last-gasp consolation - which the visiting faithful from West Yorkshire - superb throughout - had a deserved goal to cheer at the very least.
Three changes saw Elias Kachunga make a first start since the defeat at Leicester in September, Depoitre replace Steve Mounié for a 50th Town appearance and Erik Durm slot in at right-back; a tactical reshuffle where Terence Kongolo played at the left-back position, and Florent Hadergjonaj in the central midfield alongside Philip Billing.
Christopher Schindler completed a centenary of Terriers appearances at Old Trafford, and the Head Coach David Wagner himself witnessed a milestone afternoon in the Manchester quayside; his 150th competitive game at the helm.
Proving to extend an unbeaten Boxing Day record stretching back to 2011 was an uphill battle from the outset in light of facing a Manchester United side brimming with confidence under new manager Ole Gunnar Solskjær, as well as returning home following a 5-1 win at Cardiff last Saturday.
Town started brightly on the pressing foot, nonetheless. Tenacious play from Alex Pritchard played in Isaac Mbenza, but just as a gap opened up for the shot, Isaac's connection sent the ball wide of De Gea's target; a definite sign that the men from HD1 weren't going to just sit back and invite wave after wave of pressure.
And the best chance of the contest 10 minutes fell to the Terriers and the left boot of Terence Kongolo. Christopher Schindler muscled his way to the near post to flick across goal, and as Alex Pritchard followed up with a flick of his own, it fell kindly to Terence inside the six-yard box. On this occasion, the Dutchman could only blaze over from short range to massively let the home side off the hook.
Back up the other end, Schindler was again the focus of the attentions, doing enough to thwart Marcus Rashford from potentially getting on the end of Juan Mata's low cross from the left.
Jonas Lössl had to be just as alert moments later, comfortably gathering Jesse Lingard's strike from distance.
Despite having an early chance, you could feel Solskjaer's men were growing into the game and knocked the ball around with the confidence expected on the back of that win in the Welsh capital.
All the early hard work undone as Nemanja Matić couldn't miss an empty net. Rashford's corner took a wicked ricochet at the front post to eventually somehow find its way through a mass of bodies. The Serb tapped home from a yard to give the home side the lead with 15 minutes left on the clock in the first half.
Almost immediately, the Blue and White-clad Terriers thought they'd a great chance to level. Another corner, this time Alex Pritchard's whipped delivery again squirmed its way to the far post and was agonisingly cleared by a Red shirt before the lurking Zanka could muster an effort towards goal.
Marcus Rashford was proving to be a real handful. The Englishman's skill and pace on the left flank left Erik Durm behind and the resulting cross skipped all the way through to an unmarked Diogo Dalot on the opposite side of the penalty area.
Dalot made an adequate connection, but the accuracy was to be crucially desired as a relieved Jonas Lössl could only stand and watch as the ball cannoned into the advertising hoardings; ultimately keeping the scoreline at a manageable 1-0 heading into the break, albeit despite Billing having a chance of his own fire into the side netting in injury time.
It hadn't been a bad performance by any stretch of the imagination. Refreshed from the interval, Town was positive and hunted an early equaliser. Laurent Depoitre acrobatically hooked Erik Durm's cross wide in conclusion to neat interplay which took a moment or two to unlock a deep United defensive line.
A great mini spell of dominance. Depoitre again in the right area to receive a pass from Billing as the Dane surged forward, but as hesitation crept in both Laurent and Mbenza couldn't fire goalwards.
The raucous band of travelling Terriers were certainly on the edge of their seats as they could sense an outcome to the pressure. Elias Kachunga the next man to try his luck, making a clean contact to only fire over; a response that the Head Coach would definitely have been delighted with as the second 45 began to unfold.
For all the attacking play was, there still had to be air of caution whilst searching for the leveller. Luckily, substitute Ashley Young's free-kick drifted inches over the head of the incoming Paul Pogba and out for a dead ball.
And it was from a dead ball at the other end that David De Gea produced a stunning save to deny Depoitre and keep his side ahead. The Belgian's creative run to meet Alex Pritchard's low, driven corner almost found the corner if it wasn't for the Spaniard diving smartly to his right to claw away the attempt.
De Gea's save turned out to inspire his team-mates, as on the next attack the Red half of Manchester doubled their lead.
Juan Mata's run to the by-line and resulting cut-back found a route to Paul Pogba in space, and the French midfield finished with aplomb to add a cruel second in the face of Town's superb positivity to come away with a festive reward.
And with 12 minutes left it was confirmed that it was Solskjaer's second win in as many games, courtesy of Pogba's second of the afternoon. He found the bottom corner with a powerful effort from 20 yards, as spirited efforts fell disappointingly short.
The superb support did have something to cheer as the duration neared. Zanka slid home Steve Mounié's knockdown at the far post, cueing chants of 'we're going to win 4-3'. You couldn't fault the optimism, as on reflection the Town performance had once again shown steely, battling characteristics despite the concession of three goals.
Action over Christmas and New Year continues this Saturday with a trip to Craven Cottage to face Fulham (29 December 2018, 3pm).
Jonas Lössl; Terence Kongolo, Christopher Schindler (c), Mathias Zanka, Erik Durm; Florent Hadergjonaj, Philip Billing; Elias Kachunga (Chris Löwe, 57'), Alex Pritchard, Isaac Mbenza (Collin Quaner, 62'); Laurent Depoitre (Steve Mounié, 73')
Ben Hamer, Jon Gorenc Stanković, Jonathan Hogg, Juninho Bacuna
MANCHESTER UNITED (4-3-3)
David De Gea (c); Luke Shaw, Victor Lindelöf, Phil Jones, Diogo Dalot (Ashley Young, 54'); Fred (Ander Herrera, 54'), Nemanja Matić, Paul Pogba; Jesse Lingard, Marcus Rashford, Juan Mata (Angel Gomes, 81')
Sergio Romero, Eric Bailly, Andreas Pereira, Marouane Fellaini