Manchester United fans could hardly believe their luck when it was announced that Raphael Varane would be leaving Real Madrid to play at Old Trafford. Having missed out on him a decade earlier, with him going on to enjoy a ridiculously successful career to date, it was clear United’s defence could do with the quality and experience he would bring.

Speaking to The Times, Varane has discussed what motivated him to move to United and his impressions of the club and city so far.

I like the city and I like the mentality of the people here. It’s humble, respectful and I meet a lot of good people. Everyone’s friendly. I feel very good. It’s similar to the north of France, so I feel comfortable.

I have a lot of very good memories in Madrid. I felt I had won everything there and it was time to try another experience, to fight for another challenge. That’s why I chose to come here. I expected to find a family here. From the outside you can see how the club respect legends, respect the history. Now I can feel it. I feel the warmth. Everyone respects everyone. I feel like everyone here is equal.

I won everything so maybe I was looking for a different feeling. You have to fight for something bigger than you. You have to fight for the club and the fans. I feel very proud putting on the shirt. I feel honour. It’s important for this club to be at the top and I’m sure fans will always remember which team took them back to the top. That’s a challenge that motivates me.

The winning mentality is not just about how many trophies you have. It’s about the way and the work you do. Trophies . . . it’s just the ‘finality’, the consequences.” It’s about working hard first. “That’s what I want to do every day and I know players like Cristiano and other players in the group know this way. Ronaldo’s an example for all of us. We want to fight to come back at the top. I was surprised about the intensity during the training. It’s very intense and very dynamic so you have to be very focused. It’s high level.

The mentality of the players is fantastic. The players have very good resilience. I’m sure we’re going to turn this situation around. I’m very positive about what we can do and everyone sees the potential of the team.

In Madrid, if the team were underperforming, the fans would get out the white hankies. Varane appreciates the way the United crowd always get behind the team, even in difficult moments.

A good example is the atmosphere at Old Trafford when we were losing 2-0 and we won the game 3-2 [against Atalanta]. The stadium pushed the team. In England it’s like that. In all the [other] countries it’s very different if you are losing 2-0 at home, the atmosphere will be very different. That’s one of the reasons I came here because of the different atmosphere, different feeling in stadiums. Manchester United is special.