Cristiano Ronaldo can be much more than a super-sub for Manchester United this season and still has plenty to offer, according to a former Old Trafford favorite.
The five-time Ballon d'Or winner has started just once in the Premier League this season, also making five appearances off the bench, and he has yet to score or have an assist.
A derby at Manchester City awaits United on Sunday, and it remains to be seen whether manager Erik ten Hag considers 37-year-old Ronaldo for a starting role at the Etihad Stadium.
Last season's 24-goal top scorer for United missed the club's pre-season tour in July for personal reasons, and he has looked to be lacking in sharpness in the early weeks of competitive action.
Raimond van der Gouw, who spent six seasons at United during the Alex Ferguson era, suspects Ronaldo will come good again, suggesting it is just a question of getting the timing right in terms of elevating his involvement.
Asked if Ronaldo might be a perfect impact substitute for United this season, Van der Gouw told Stats Perform: "I will not say that. No, no, no, no.
"I mean, okay, he's not 30 anymore. He's 30-plus, but he's so fit. But he missed a part of the pre-season."
Former goalkeeper Van der Gouw said those weeks before the season gets underway are hugely important, and anyone not up to speed when the competitive action gets going can struggle. He sees Ronaldo offering far more than cameos from the bench in future.
"You look for your form, you're still a little bit behind in the condition. So it's a matter of when is the right time to fit in," Van der Gouw said. "But in the meantime, you have seen the team is performing, so then you don't change so quickly a team. I think it's a matter of time of when do you put Ronaldo in, and can he deliver what he can deliver?
"And I think with his age, he's still good enough.
"You can be fit and doing your work in a gym, but you need your match fitness, and you only get that by playing games. And that's what he didn't do it in the beginning. So he's a little bit behind."
Ronaldo has played 207 minutes in the Premier League this term, taking 12 shots in that time, with just two of those going on target.
He scored his first goal of the season in the Europa League, with a penalty against Sheriff, before going away on international duty.
Even with Portugal, where he played full games against the Czech Republic and Spain, Ronaldo has not been immune to flak.
After a 1-0 defeat to Spain this week, Ronaldo's performance was heavily criticized, to the dismay of his sister, Katia Aveiro.
She said the critics were "sick, petty, soulless, stupid and forever ungrateful".
Ronaldo was also defended by Bruno Fernandes, his Portugal and United team-mate, who said: "This is a phase. When the goals start to appear, he will have more capacity and tranquillity to continue scoring many goals for our national team. We cannot forget that he is the best scorer ever."
The Ronaldo of years gone by might have hit back at detractors by producing a match-winning performance in his next game, but the bench may beckon again this weekend.
Van der Gouw has no doubt City will provide tough opposition for United.
"Well, at the moment, it's obvious City's much further [ahead] than Man United. It's quite clear," said Van der Gouw, who was for many years Peter Schmeichel's deputy.
"So in a certain way, you're hoping that it will be an interesting game. It's always a different game compared [to others]. It's not just a normal game if you play against City.
"Everybody has to be really sharp. And then we will see who's going to be the winner. That's a massive game. Massive."