Downing: 'I'm starting to pick up form again'
Liverpool winger Stewart Downing has shrugged off criticism of his displays this season and believes he has come through a dip in form.
The £20million summer arrival from Aston Villa was expected to provide the Reds with a much-needed cutting edge from the flanks but after a promising start his performances dropped off.
He has created 41 chances in 21 league matches but his only goal in 26 appearances came against League One side Oldham in the third round of the FA Cup.
It has led to questions being asked about the value for money of Kenny Dalglish's most expensive summer transfer, but the England international has paid no attention to the critics.
"The media do build things up a lot more than we do here, but that's the way football is," said the 27-year-old.
"I just get my head down -- whatever is said is said, there's nothing you can do about it.
"I started quite brightly, then was in and out, and now I'm starting to pick up form again.
"I want to play all the time but the only way I can do that is to play well.
"I've got to get my head down and work hard, and the last couple of weeks I'm pleased with how it's gone personally.
"As long as the manager is happy with me, and the club and the players, then that's fine by me.
"The manager has been really good to me from the first day I came.
"He's given me lots of confidence -- and it's the same with every other player.
"He's great to play for. That's all you want as a player -- a manager who is honest with you, who gives you the confidence to go out and play."
Downing is raring to go against Manchester United at Anfield today in the fourth round of the FA Cup, having helped book a place in the final of the Carling Cup by knocking out Manchester City in midweek.
"It's a massive game against Manchester United and you have to start well against a big team because if they get early goals it's hard to get back into the game," he said.
"We have to do that because top players hurt you if you're not on your guard."