The night that Hazard decided he was injured and walked off at Leicester despite his manager wanting him to stay on was the lowest point of Mourinho’s second reign at the club.
Three days after that dismal 2-1 defeat last December, the Special One was sacked and Hazard, along with Diego Costa and Cesc Fabregas, booed by angry Chelsea fans in their next game.
On Sunday at Stamford Bridge Hazard played like a man possessed, a man with a point to prove. He scored one glorious goal, made another – and when the crushing fourth went in, he raced over to celebrate deliriously with scorer N’Golo Kante and the entire Chelsea team. This result clearly meant something to the Special One’s former players.
Because what Hazard and co did was quite simply humiliate their former manager.Manchester United were not just beaten by the most significant performance yet from Antonio Conte’s Chelsea team, they were torn apart. The goals came from Pedro, Gary Cahill, Hazard and Kante. But they could have come from anywhere at any time, so poor were United.
On Monday night Mourinho had given a master class in defensively organising his team as they frustrated Liverpool at Anfield. The old master has not lost it, the pundits said.
Yesterday he was undone after just 30 seconds as that much vaunted defence fell disastrously asleep. And it only got worse. It was the most un-Mourinho-like performance probably ever seen from a Mourinho team.
United lacked punch in attack, were sloppy in midfield, and chaotic at the back. The sight of the £89 million man Paul Pogba simply waving an ineffective foot at Kante as he jinked through for that fourth goal signifies that all is not well in the Portuguese’s camp.
The wags afterwards were saying this shows that Mourinho can still get a performance out of Chelsea – just ten months too late.
But there is no question that this was a triumph for Conte. The Italian has not had an easy ride since taking over at Stamford Bridge, and had insisted he would need time to repair the damage of last season – and by implication the wreckage left by Mourinho.
Defeats by Liverpool and Arsenal had raised doubts, but since switching to a three at the back system it has been three wins, nine goals scored and none conceded. This win though sent out a message that Conte’s methods may just be beginning to pay off.
Roman Abramovich’s celebrates his 50th birthday today, and he will not have had a better present. Before kick off yesterday it was all about the return of Jose, but also a commemoration of the life of Matthew Harding, the popular vice chairman who had tragically died in a helicopter crash 20 years ago on Saturday.
United could not have been more generous visitors. After just 30 seconds Marcos Alonso lofted a harmless ball over the top. Chris Smalling left it to Danny Blind who was asleep, and Pedro nipped in to take the ball round David De Gea and score.
United should have levelled when Zlatan Ibrahimovic headed over from six yards – but that was as good as it got. Kante and Nemanja Matic bossed the midfield for Chelsea, and Victor Moses was again a revelation at wing back. Mourinho’s team fell apart again as Hazard’s corner was inadvertently flicked on by Antonio Valencia – and Cahill slammed the ball home.
Anders Herrera forced a good save from Thibaut Courtois as United fought to get back into the match, but every time Hazard got the ball it was panic stations.
Just after the hour the Belgian, whose fall-out with Mourinho was perhaps the most blatant of all of the disintegrating relationships last year, fed Kante, who moved the ball on to Matic, and there was Hazard racing onto the return to slide his shot home.
United were by now a shambles, and when Pedro flicked the ball on for the galloping Kante to race into the penalty area, the Frenchman emulated Hazard as he dribbled round his defender to shoot home. Humilation complete – and there were still twenty minutes left on the clock.
Mourinho had never lost a game in England by such a margin. But then as he knows, English football can be a Hazardous business.