'Hazard Should Play 90 Minutes': Courtois Surprised By Conte Decision in Manchester United Defeat

Thibaut Courtois has expressed his surprise at Antonio Conte's decision to substitute Eden Hazard in Chelsea's defeat to Manchester United on Sunday (February 25).

Conte opted to replace Hazard with Pedro as Chelsea chased a deficit against Manchester United on Sunday (February 25) with 20 minutes remaining at Old Trafford.

Speaking to Belgian radio station Play Sports, Courtois said a player of Hazard's quality should be completing 90 minutes and that he had no explanation for Conte's decision.

"After our goal, we conceded a counter-attacking goal just like last Tuesday but in the second half we had less of the ball, but even then we should never have lost this match," said the Belgian goalkeeper.

"If you do not do the small things well in top matches, you lose, which is what happened today.

"I have no explanation for the sub of Hazard. I had not expected him to take him off but it is a choice of the manager. He must explain. I can't look into his head.

"Players like Eden should have 90 minutes on the pitch. He can always bring something extra offensive."

Thibaut Courtois
Thibaut Courtois at Old Trafford, Manchester, England, February 25. Courtois said he was surprised to see Eden Hazard substituted against Manchester United. OLI SCARFF/AFP/Getty

Asked on Sunday why he removed Hazard, Conte said it was a "tactical decision" and suggested the Belgian forward was unable to maintain his high level.

"We have to keep the same performance for 90 minutes. Otherwise we don't have a great balance," the Italian added. "Every single player has to work with the ball, without the ball, otherwise we lose our balance and the game.

"I think he finished his energy. Because in the first half he ran a lot, and the second half, he started in the same way. But when I see a player is a bit tired, my task is to find a different solution."

Chelsea's defeat to Jose Mourinho's Manchester United was their third in four Premier League games, seeing Conte's team drop out of the top four.

And the pressure doesn't ease. On Sunday, they are back in Manchester to face Pep Guardiola's runaway league leaders. Manchester City, the new League Cup champions, play Arsenal on Thursday before the game at the Etihad Stadium on Sunday.