Zak Gilsenan scored a superb second-half hat-trick, but Rovers’ fantastic fightback ultimately proved in vain, as Manchester United scored a late winner in a seven-goal thriller at Brockhall.
United got off to the perfect start, opening the scoring inside 30 seconds when Charlie McNeill capitalised on some sloppy defending before firing home via a slight deflection.
The prolific United striker netted his second of the game on 36 minutes, in similar circumstances, as he again took advantage of an error at the back, before rounding Felix Goddard and slotting home.
It was 3-0 soon after, as Dillion Hoogerwerf played a precise ball over the top to Noam Emeran, who ran in behind and found the far corner with a shot that went in off the post.
Mike Sheron made a double change at the break, bringing on Jay Haddow and George Pratt, and moving Charlie Weston and the impressive Jake Garrett into midfield, and Rovers looked a different side in the second half.
Rovers twice went close early on after the restart, as Jared Harlock fired straight at Johan Guadagno when clean through on goal and the United keeper then pulled off a sensational save to keep out Garrett’s top corner bound strike.
But from the resultant corner, on 54 minutes, the hosts did pull a goal back, when the ball dropped kindly to Gilsenan, who lashed it home.
Rovers reduced the arrears further on 66 minutes when Alex Baker showed tremendous pace and power down the left, before his centre was fired into the roof of the net by Gilsenan for his second of the game.
And the young Australian completed his hat-trick 10 minutes from time, with a sliced shot into the bottom corner after Baker again did well down the left.
But just as it looked like Rovers would go on and win it, United snatched it at the death, as McNeill was denied his hat-trick when his shot was blocked, but Charlie Savage – son of former Rovers midfielder Robbie – was on hand to fire home the follow-up.
It was cruel on Rovers, who out played the table toppers, who have won nine Premier League games in a row, for virtually the entire second-half, only to leave empty handed.
Sheron’s side are back in action again next Saturday when they travel to Wolves.
ROVERS: Goddard, Weston, Wyatt, Garrett, Cirino, Harlock, Pleavin (Pratt 46), Fyles (Haddow 46), Gent (Wood 77), Gilsenan, Baker.
Subs not used: Blease, Wharton.
Goals: Gilsenan (54, 69, 80)
Booked: Pleavin, Baker.