Prosecutors have dropped an assault charge against ex-Manchester United footballer Nicky Butt.

Butt, 45, was accused of beating his estranged wife Shelley Barlow last April and was due to go on trial next week, but the case has been discontinued after the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) offered no evidence.

It is understood Ms Barlow did not want to go into the witness box to give evidence against her husband.

The CPS has faced criticism for pursuing an assault case against TV presenter Caroline Flack, who took her own life at the weekend, despite her boyfriend - the alleged victim - saying he did not support the prosecution.

Prosecutors have dropped an assault charge against Nicky Butt (R)

Butt had pleaded not guilty to common assault and causing £800 of criminal damage to Ms Barlow's mobile phone.

On Tuesday, a CPS spokesman said: "We have a duty to keep all cases under review and following the receipt of new material have decided to discontinue this prosecution.

"Mr Butt has agreed to accept a caution for criminal damage."

Former Manchester United footballer Butt with his wife Shelley

Police had been called to a property in Hale, Greater Manchester on April 16 and said they found a woman at the address had suffered a small cut to her hand which did not require hospital treatment.

At a previous hearing, Lisa Roberts QC, representing Butt - who is head of coaching at the Manchester United youth academy, said it would be her client's case that he did not know how the complainant came about any injury. 

A preliminary hearing was due to take place at Manchester Magistrates' Court on Wednesday in which Butt's legal team was expected to argue the case should be thrown out as an abuse of process - partly questioning the proportionality of continuing with the prosecution.

Butt earned legendary status during his playing days at Manchester United

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Butt, from Bowdon, Altrincham, won a string of Premier League titles in his playing career at Old Trafford and also played in the club's dramatic last-gasp 2-1 victory over Bayern Munich in the 1999 Champions League final.

Following his arrest last April, it was reported that, months earlier, he had separated from his wife of 11 years - with whom he has two children.