The former Manchester City and Chelsea striker had been sidelined for around six weeks with an ankle injury, but made a goal-scoring comeback to clinch a win for Brendan Rodgers' men in a topsy-turvy game at the Britannia Stadium.
The goal was his 12th in just 15 games this season, as he continued the sparkling form that he displayed at the beginning of the season.
Sturridge's early season form had seen him tipped to be England's star striker at next summer's World Cup, with a combination of Wayne Rooney and the 24-year-old most likely to form a promising partnership for Roy Hodgson's men in Brazil. But the injury opened the door for somebody else to impress, and one of Rooney's team-mates did just that at Old Trafford.
Whilst recent weeks have been difficult for David Moyes and the Red Devils, the emergence of Danny Welbeck as a regular goalscorer has been a welcome boost. Goals against Swansea City, Tottenham Hotspur, Norwich City, West Ham United and a brace against Aston Villa take Welbeck's tally to six since Sturridge suffered his ankle injury – and this kind of form will not have gone unnoticed by Hodgson.
The partnership between Rooney and Welbeck that has been established at Manchester United could be important in international football, whilst the latter showed at the last major tournament that he can be a threat for England with his winning goal against Sweden at Euro 2012.
But whilst Welbeck may be in a rich vein of form, there are still five months to go until the tournament gets underway. With Sturridge now back from injury and ready to hit the goal trail once more, he can certainly re-establish himself as the #1 English striker ahead of the Three Lions' first match against Italy in Manaus on June 14.
His partnership with Luis Suarez has been devastating for Rodgers and Liverpool so far this season, but the two will have to put their chemistry to one side when England face Uruguay on June 19, where Sturridge will be hoping to overshadow his more illustrious team mate.
The battle is far from over for Sturridge or Welbeck, who both have pace that England will need to utilise against tiring defences in the Brazilian heat next summer. The next five months will give both players a great opportunity to stake their claim for a starting role in Hodgson's team, though a scenario where both players start looks unlikely at this stage.
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