After an insipid opening period, the Reds found themselves 2-0 down 10 minutes after the break as Nemanja Vidic doubled the lead given to United by Robin van Persie's 21st goal of the season. However, Sturridge, a half-time substitute, made an immediate impact and scored his second in as many matches since joining for £12million from Chelsea to spark a revival. Downing believes that gives them hope after giving United far too much respect in the early stages.
"We probably let them control it in the first half. We sat back too much and just let them have the ball too much," he told the Liverpool Echo.
"The manager stressed at half-time that we needed to push on and put them under pressure more when they had the ball.
"Sturridge coming on maybe pushed us a bit further forward.
"We got support for Luis (Suarez) up there, who was probably getting frustrated before that.
"That's what Sturridge gives you. He can get in behind people, and he's got pace and power - you saw that with the way he took his goal.
"I thought in the second half our performance was really good. Certainly for the last 20 minutes we had them pegged right back.
"You could sense that their fans were getting edgy and Alex Ferguson was shouting a lot of instructions.
"We had them rattled a bit and created plenty of chances."