Erik ten Hag said he does not understand criticism of Bruno Fernandes after the Manchester United captain eased the pressure on his manager with a stoppage time winner to beat Fulham 1-0 on Saturday.
Fernandes' leadership has been questioned during a disastrous start to the season for Ten Hag's men with former United skipper Roy Keane among those calling for the Portuguese to be stripped of the armband.
However, he produced a rare moment of quality at Craven Cottage as his strike from outside the box had just too much power for Bernd Leno in the 91st minute to offer some relief to his manager after a tough week.
"I don't understand that," said Ten Hag of Fernandes' critics. "Everyone has his mistakes, no one is perfect but he is doing a lot of things very good.
"He showed every time as a captain he is an example. You see today how he is working, how he is pressing and in the end he scored the goal."
The victory lifts United up to sixth and within five points of the top four.
Ten Hag labelled Marcus Rashford's decision to attend a birthday party at a nightclub in the hours after last weekend's 3-0 defeat to Manchester City as "unacceptable".
However, the Dutch coach insisted that Rashford's absence from the matchday squad was due to injury rather than any disciplinary action.
United needed a bright start after a week to forget. They also lost 3-0 at home to Newcastle on Wednesday to end their hold on the League Cup.
The visitors did have the ball in the net after just seven minutes.
Scott McTominay has been the most reliable source of goals in recent weeks for Ten Hag as his forwards misfire.
The Scotland midfielder turned in Alejandro Garnacho's cross.
However, Harry Maguire had tried to play the ball before it reached Garnacho from an offside position and the strike was ruled out by a VAR review that lasted four minutes.
Thereafter, United's blunt attack rarely seriously threatened the Fulham goal.
Antony was hooked by Ten Hag after another woeful performance by the £87 million ($107 million) winger on the hour mark and Rasmus Hojlund's wait for a first Premier League goal goes on.
Fulham have also struggled to find the net since the departure of Aleksandar Mitrovic to the Saudi Pro League.
Marco Silva's men have scored just nine times in their opening 11 games and were to rue not making more of a dominant spell early in the second-half.
Andre Onana was forced to parry powerful efforts by Harry Wilson and Joao Palhinha, while Willian dragged another good opening just wide.
United looked destined for their first draw since April until Fulham shot themselves in the foot in stoppage time.
Palhinha twice failed to clear and the ball eventually broke to his Portuguese international teammate Fernandes, who found the bottom corner.
"We delivered, we get the three points and that's the most important (thing)," said Fernandes.
"Everyone knows the situation isn't the best. The last two games the performance and the results obviously aren't what we have to give, but it was a different game."
Defeat leaves Fulham still in 14th, seven points above the relegation zone.