Jose Mourinho will go into the new Barclays Premier League campaign rocked by an injury crisis that threatens to kill off their title challenge before it has even begun.
Chelsea relinquished their crown to Manchester United last season and lost the FA Community Shield at Wembley on penalties to Sir Alex Ferguson's side after their preparations were disrupted by yet more injury woe.
Chelsea's dreams of winning the title for a third successive year were hindered last season by long-term injuries to key players like Petr Cech, John Terry and Joe Cole.
Now Terry, who has been suffering with a broken toe during pre-season, will be out for at least a month with Ivory Coast international striker Drogba, who hit 33 goals last season, also uncertain to start the season opener against Birmingham next week.
With Salomon Kalou, Andriy Shevchenko, Claude Makelele and Michael Ballack all struggling to be fit, and Claudio Pizarro also hampered by a back problem, Mourinho has real cause for concern.
The current problems meant Mourinho had to pitch Joe Cole against United's formidable back line and it was, as you would expect, no contest.
But instead of cursing his luck, Mourinho wanted to concentrate on those players who held out for a 1-1 draw in normal time before Edwin Van der Sar emerged as the United hero with three penalty saves in a one-sided shoot-out.
Mourinho said: 'I am very happy with the players who took part.
'When you ask me about John Terry and Didier Drogba or Michael Ballack, Salomon Kalou or Claude Makelele - all of the boys who were not here - I don't want to go in that direction because I want to respect the players I had here today.
'They played very well for me and I prefer to speak about them instead of the players not involved in the game.
'I now have to analyse the picture for the next two weeks to make my decisions in relation to the three matches we have to play against Birmingham, Reading and Liverpool.
'When you have so many injured players, you hope one or two can be back. I would be happy just to have Kalou. The situation was not easy to prepare for this game.
'But what makes me really happy and confident is that one side was a team almost in the maximum of their power if you look at Manchester United's team last season and the team they played here - it was close.
'If you look at the Chelsea team, we are speaking about more than 50% of the team. But we competed against them.
'They were not better than us, I am not going to say we were better than them but it is fair to say nobody was better than anybody.
'That has given us confidence for the start of the season against Birmingham.
'When the injured players are back, they are back. But I am ready to go, like I was today, ready to go to the fight with the boys who played today. I am happy with them.
'I work with them, I play with them and I trust them, so no problems.'
United took the lead through Ryan Giggs in the 35th minute before £13.5million new signing Florent Malouda equalised just before the interval.
But the game went to penalties to decide the first trophy of the new season and Van der Sar saved from Claudio Pizarro, Frank Lampard and Shaun Wright-Phillips while Rio Ferdinand, Michael Carrick and Wayne Rooney notched with ease for United.