The Crystal Palace manager is also convinced the forward is learning from the mistakes which perhaps contributed to ending his United career.
Zaha will face his former team in Saturday's FA Cup final as a vital figure to Palace's hopes of victory. After joining United for £15million in January 2013, he spent 18 months of his two years there on loan at Palace and Cardiff before permanently rejoining the Eagles in February 2015.
He made only four first-team appearances under David Moyes at Old Trafford before being sold by Louis van Gaal, but has since gradually rebuilt his reputation and was last week named Palace's player of the year.
Zaha was also Ferguson's last signing before the manager's retirement but, having witnessed him mature, Pardew believes he will continue to improve.
"I know that Sir Alex Ferguson still feels that he is a Man Utd player," said Pardew, 54. "He can beat players for fun, he has a great physique. There's a lot going on there. (He's) probably an unfinished talent.
"He wants to be training, he loves it, he actually lives and dies by football. But then there is a part of him which wants it to be about him. And if it ain't about him, why are we doing it?
"When you are not in the team and he was at Man Utd, that might have been an issue for him and the manager and the staff.
"I have tried to understand that with him and tried to educate him, that he has to do things in training that might not necessarily be around him. He has got better at that.
"He also doesn't react well to disappointment, he sometimes take a while to kick back into gear.
"This is a young player, who has great talent. He is learning a lot this year. He is the player of the year. There is a reason for that.
"Sometimes he still wanders around in training a little bit and I have to kick him up the bum or throw something at him. You have to understand this guy is 23: some players take longer to progress."
Zaha was this week praised by Yohan Cabaye, who last summer joined Palace from Paris St Germain, as someone capable of playing for Ligue 1 champions.
Questions were asked about his attitude while with Cardiff, United and the England Under-21s, but Pardew is adamant he has no such problem and even credits some of his improvement to another maverick, Emmanuel Adebayor.
"I don't think there's a problem with Wilf now," he said. "His personality traits have improved around the group. That comes from us leaning on him, the other players helping him, senior players like Adebayor giving him little nuggets of information.
"He can have a big final, and I really hope he has one not just for Crystal Palace but for him personally."