Ole Gunnar Solskjaer described Scott McTominay as one of Manchester United's leaders after his performance in the 1-0 win over Leicester City on Saturday.
United ended a three-game winless Premier League run thanks to Marcus Rashford's eighth-minute penalty at Old Trafford.
McTominay produced a standout display in midfield in the absence of the injured Paul Pogba, shackling James Maddison while triggering United's counter-attacks as they kept Leicester comfortably at bay.
"He's improving, isn't he?" Solskjaer said of the 22-year-old. "Today, I thought he was excellent. He lost the ball a couple of times, which you'd expect because he's learning his new role as a sitting midfielder.
"He goes into tackles, challenges, fights... if there are teams trying to intimidate us, he's there, he's a leader. I wouldn't want to go into a 50-50 with him, put it that way."
While McTominay impressed in midfield, United centre-backs Victor Lindelof and Harry Maguire, playing against his former club, also performed well to keep Leicester striker Jamie Vardy on the fringes of the action.
"I thought they did excellent," said Solskjaer. "They read the game well. I've got loads of admiration for Vardy, he's my type of centre-forward: runs in behind, harasses and you've got to be spot on with your decision-making.
"Both of them proved their worth today. There were a couple of races and Harry did well against him."
While Solskjaer acknowledged the overall performance was not of the highest quality, he was happy for his players to be given a boost after three matches without a victory.
"When you play, when you coach, you don't get carried away when you win a game that we maybe don't deserve to win but we don't get down in the dumps when we don't win games we should win," he said.
"The performances have been miles better than this. We just have to wake up with a smile and have the day off and relax a bit."
Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers felt Rashford's penalty was harsh, although probably correct, but he believes Caglar Soyuncu will learn from the incident after a careless shove on the United forward.
"It was a soft penalty, harsh, but I think it was [correct]," he said. "For young Caglar, he'll learn to have that wee bit of patience. Marcus is cute, he's bright, waiting for the contact, and he gets the penalty. We reacted well to it in the end, it's just a little frustrating we didn't take something from it.
"[Soyuncu] has been fantastic, stepping in since Harry went, and I thought he was dominant in the game today. There's a lot of young players in the squad and they'll make mistakes.
"In the game as a whole, there weren't so many chances. We're a bit frustrated: we didn't start the game well, we put ourselves on the back foot and conceded a penalty early on."