Didier Drogba must prove legendary Chelsea status against Manchester United

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Chelsea striker Didier Drogba is in line for a surprise Premier League start when Jose Mourinho's side travel to Old Trafford to face Manchester United this weekend, presenting him with an opportunity to prove that he's still deserving of a place in the Stamford Bridge squad.

With Diego Costa and Loic Remy both suffering from respective hamstring injuries, the Ivorian talisman is likely to lead the line in what is undoubtedly the Blues' biggest game of the 2014/15 campaign so far.

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When Drogba completed a shock free transfer move back to west London after leaving Galatasaray in the summer, Chelsea supporters could be forgiven for getting caught up in the excitement and furore that ensued, as they celebrated the return of a modern day club legend.

But, something that fans seemingly failed to acknowledge - or perhaps chose to ignore - was whether the 36-year-old still possesses the necessary qualities to make a notable contribution to the first-team squad.

His early performances have been largely underwhelming, although that is often the way with bit-part appearances at the end of matches already won, or cameos in uncompetitive fixtures like Chelsea's Capital One Cup victory over Bolton Wanderers.

However, Tuesday night's Champions League thrashing of Slovenian side NK Maribor provided onlookers with a first chance to assess Drogba after he was introduced in only the 15th minute to replace the injured opening goalscorer Remy.

Lack of fitness and form

Despite registering a first goal during his second spell at Chelsea from the penalty spot, and the manner in which the hosts cruised to a 6-0 victory, there were still plenty of reasons for Blues fans to be concerned about the veteran's ability moving forward.

His first touch was poor, and passing not much better, and when he was sent through on goal in the closing stages Drogba lacked the acceleration to take advantage. The rustiness was there for all to see.

Granted, he is still working his way back to full fitness after his pre-season was interrupted by an ankle injury, but the labouring display was still a million miles from the Drogba of old. Age has certainly taken its toll on a player that used to be one of the most feared front-men in England's top-flight, and must raise doubts in Mourinho's head about starting him against Manchester United on Sunday.

Other options?

17-year-old striker Dominik Solanke is a significantly more youthful option, but it's unlikely that the Portuguese tactician will throw the talented teenager in from the start. Andre Schurrle might also come into consideration, given that he's been utilised in a more central 'false nine' position before, but history has taught us that's never been very successful for him at club level.

All things considered, Drogba will probably be named on the teamsheet in the absence of Chelsea's first and second choice strikers, and you wouldn't bet against the African star calling on all his experience and big-game mentality to rise to the occasion one more time at Old Trafford.

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Didier Drogba
Premier League

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