Ole Gunnar Solskjaer lauded unlikely man-of-the-match Brandon Williams for displaying the heart of a lion and inspiring Manchester United a much-needed win on the road against Partizan Belgrade.
The Norwegian kicked off his reign with a club record nine successive away wins, only to endure an 11-match wait for another, stretching back to March’s stunning Champions League triumph at Paris St Germain.
Anthony Martial’s first-half spot-kick helped United finally end that run with a 1-0 Europa League win on Thursday night in Serbia, where Partizan, backed by a raucous home support, kept pressing to the death.
“Of course, I’m happy now that we can just look forward to the next one,” Solskjaer said.
“Try to build momentum. We need to win away from home in the league, but another clean sheet and that gives you a platform to win games from.”
Martial scored the winning goal, but Williams got the bulk of the praise, with the 19-year-old bursting into the area and drawing the foul which earned penalty.
It was an impressive performance by the left-back, while full debutant James Garner, 18, came through his baptism of fire impressively.
“They did excellent,” Solskjaer said of the teenagers.
“I thought Jimmy just grew and grew in the game, became better and better.
“And, for me, Brandon was man of the match. He’s been fantastic the few games he’s played. The boy has no fear, he is as brave as a lion and he got us the win.
“In games like these when we get the first goal, we need to learn when to get the second, when to get the third.
“I thought we had loads of opportunities to make sure we’re in a comfortable lead, but we didn’t play that pass forward.
“But Brandon has an absolutely great attitude. The boy is going to be a top, top player.”
It was a much-needed victory after 33 weeks without winning away from Old Trafford, with United holding tight in Belgrade as Partizan laid siege to their goal.
“We defended really well, in the box especially,” Solskjaer said.
“I think we showed some grit in that respect. We could have defended better up front, we should have stopped them.
“They pushed us back, we need to get more intensity in our pressing, but proud and kept another clean sheet.”
Solskjaer baulked at the suggestion United rode their luck and was quick to praise the home fans, especially given the pre-match concerns that racism may mar the Group L encounter.
“I don’t know about luck, but we had to defend really well,” the United boss added.
“I thought their team was really good second half, lots of courage, sending men forward. We defended well.
“The crowd was unbelievable. I think the crowd should be very proud of their team and the team should be very proud of their crowd because it was an excellent atmosphere.
“You know what we talked about before the game… wow, the fans were great.”