Rovers Under-23s let a two-goal lead slip, as Shola Shoretire’s hat-trick earned Manchester United a 6-4 victory at Leigh Sports Village and ended Rovers’ unbeaten record on the road.
Billy Barr’s side had led 4-2 with over 70 minutes on the clock, thanks to two goals from Connor McBride, but United scored four times in the final 17 minutes to secure the points.
Rovers took the lead on 13 minutes when McBride fired home his seventh goal of the season with a fine strike, but Hannibal equalised soon after.
The visitors went back in front on 32 minutes when captain for the night Sam Barnes headed home from a corner, but United again drew level moments later through Shoretire.
Rovers came flying out of the traps at the start of the second half and scored twice in quick succession to again gain the upper hand.
McBride netted his second of the night from the spot, before Joe Nolan marked his first start with his third goal in blue-and-white.
However, United responded with three goals in a deadly five-minute spell to complete the turnaround.
In the space of 60 seconds, two carbon copy goals saw the hosts draw level, as crosses into the box were headed home by Shoretire and then Joe Hugill, before Shoretire completed his hat-trick on 78 minutes.
There was still time for United to add a sixth, as the impressive Amad Diallo fired into the bottom corner five minutes from time.
The result was Rovers’ first away defeat of the season and sees them drop to second in the table.
Ahead of the game, Barr made three changes to the side that defeated Leicester City 3-1 last time out – a result that took Rovers top of Premier League 2 Division 1.
With Bradley Dack and Elliott Bennett travelling with the first team to QPR and Jack Vale joining Rochdale on loan, in came Jared Harlock, Zak Gilsenan and Nolan, who was making his first start after scoring twice in three appearances off the bench.
Former Manchester United youngster Corry Evans was again given the opportunity to get valuable match minutes under his belt after recovering from a hamstring injury and was the only senior star on show in an otherwise youthful Rovers squad.
For the hosts, Diallo – a £37m January signing from Atalanta – was again included in their starting XI, having scored twice in United’s 6-3 victory over Liverpool last time out.
Rovers saw plenty of the ball early on and, after a couple of free-kicks in promising positions came to nothing, they opened the scoring on 13 minutes when McBride intercepted a pass and struck a crisp left-foot shot past Ondrej Mastny.
The lead lasted just seven minutes, however, as a well-worked United move ended with Hannibal cutting inside onto his left foot, before firing a fine finish into the far corner.
Just past the half-hour mark, Rovers were inches away from going back in front, as McBride slipped in Harlock, who ran clean through on goal, but Mastny produced an outstanding save to tip his low drive just past the post.
However, the visitors did take the lead from the resultant corner, as Luke Brennan’s delivery was headed home by the towering Barnes.
But once again, United hit back almost immediately, as on 38 minutes, Diallo centred from the right and the unmarked Shoretire side-footed home.
With the game in the balance at the break, Rovers scored twice in quick succession early in the second half to take a firm grip of the encounter.
On 53 minutes, Harlock was dragged down in the box and McBride made no mistake from the spot, rifling the resultant penalty into the left hand corner for his second of the night.
Less than two minutes later, Dan Pike did brilliantly down the right and his cut-back from the byline was swept home by Nolan.
Rovers remained in the ascendancy until the closing stages, when United mounted an unlikely comeback.
On 73 minutes, Diallo swung a cross into the box and Shoretire headed home. Less than a minute later, Harvey Neville delivered a deep cross from the right and Hugill headed home at the far post.
The comeback was complete on 78 minutes, as Diallo picked out Shoretire to tap home his hat-trick and United netted a sixth five minutes from time when a deep cross was volleyed back inside by Alvaro Fernandez and Diallo rifled home his impressive display deserved.
It was cruel on the young Rovers side, who ended the game with five scholars on the pitch.
Barr’s side are back in action next Friday, February 12th, when they host Southampton at Leigh Sports Village, kick-off 12 noon.
MAN UTD: Mastny, Neville, Galbraith (c), Devine, Fernandez, Levitt, McCann, Diallo, Shoretire, Hannibal, Hugill.
Subs not used: Vitek, Hardley, Helm, Stanley.
Goals: Hannibal (20), Shoretire (38, 73, 78), Hugill (74), Diallo (85)
Booked: McCann (23), Diallo (82)
ROVERS: Eastham, Pike, Barnes (c), Garrett, Cirino, Harlock, Evans (Connolly 70), Nolan, Gilsenan (Baker 82), Brennan, McBride.
Subs not used: Goddard, Weston, Wood.
Goals: McBride (13, 54 pen), Barnes (32), Nolan (56)
Booked: Harlock (58), Barnes (70), Connolly (90+1), McBride (90+6)