Van der Gouw spent six years at United, and also worked for two years on the coaching staff of now-Ajax boss Peter Bosz when he was in charge at Dutch rivals Vitesse Arnhem.
And Van der Gouw thinks Bosz’s young side could ultimately come unstuck in Stockholm on Wednesday night because of their lack of experience of playing on such a big stage with so much at stake.
“The biggest weakness is the age of the group,” he said of the Amsterdam club. “They can be very good but also very vulnerable, because young players make mistakes.
“It’s a very talented team, who always make chances. They have some more experienced players in midfield who feed the forwards. I see the striker, Kasper Dolberg, going to a top club very quickly.
“United have to be very alert if they lose the ball but there are question marks over how Ajax will deal with the pressure of the occasion and how they might react if United score first.”
Van der Gouw said United are facing a side full of energy and pace, with coach Bosz having tried to emulate Barcelona’s famed high-pressing style of play.
“His Ajax team is very good at getting the ball from the opposition when they lose it in midfield,” said the 54-year-old, who helped United win the 1999 Treble but spent much of his Old Trafford career as No2 to first Peter Schmeichel and then Fabien Barthez.
“When they lose possession, they try to get it back as quickly as possible – you might say like the five-second rule that Barcelona have, where the aim is always to regain the ball within five seconds of losing it.”
Van der Gouw admitted it was a tough call to pick a winner, citing the English club’s tiredness — after a season that will have see them play 64 games — as a cause for concern.
“Normally I would say United straight away, but it’s hard to call,” said the Dutchman, speaking to United Review.
“United need some freshness after a long season and Ajax are a good team who want to fight for each other and run for each other. Both teams will go for it, know it’s the last game and that they have nothing to lose.”